The Central Bureau of Investigation stands thoroughly exposed after dentist couple Rajesh and Nupur Talwar were acquitted in the Aarushi-Hemraj murder case. The Allahabad high court’s castigation of the way the CBI conducted the probe was way beyond inefficiency. It had assumed a role far beyond the simple remit of honest investigation — that is revealing of the basic nature of an agency that behaves like the handmaiden of those ruling New Delhi. It had gone into the case with preconceived notions of guilt, to justify which it planted evidence, vetted testimonies and tutored witnesses, thus subverting the process of arriving at the truth.
The larger question is whether the CBI should be called in to investigate cases simply as the local/state police has failed. The very principles behind the CBI’s founding is under fire now.
CBI officers have always behaved as super-sleuths representing the Centre while being utilised for purposes other than those intended under the Delhi Police Establishment Act. Conceived as a specialised unit like the FBI in America, capable of tackling inter-state crime and financial skullduggery, the CBI in reality is seen to act only in predetermined ways, subject to prevailing political winds. Derisively called a “caged parrot” by a Supreme Court judge, it has been felled by its motivated approach and by going soft professionally. There is no one to question its work and findings except those who ordered it to take up a case. Its investigative methods border on strongarm tactics suited more to the Gestapo than a police force in a democracy.
The primary question that arises each time the CBI is in the crosshairs of the public eye is whether there is reasonable justification for it to exist in its present form. Should the agency be dismantled and a whole new approach formulated for it to be the watchdog over inter-state rackets, financial scandals, etc, rather than be chasing sensational murder cases. The scant regard with which its summons to politicians in matters of corruption is treated may be due to its suspect motives, and its reputation as the poodle of those in power, its reputation having been ruined by its partisanship.
The CBI is not alone to be blamed for the several disproportionate assets cases against politicians dragging on in courts for ages since it is the judicial system that is notoriously slothful. The point here is had the CBI been able to achieve high standards in investigations and acquired a reputation as a honest and committed police force, it would have been feared for the right reasons. It might be a bit late though for the CBI to reform, which would be contingent on the country finding an impossible bipartisan balance so crucial to mending institutions.