DC Edit | Probe agencies need to heed advice by CJI

Chief Justice Chandrachud advises agencies to prioritize cases affecting national security and economic well-being amidst concerns of political interference

The observation that Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud has made about Central investigative agencies spreading themselves too thin and his suggestion to them to choose their battles carefully, focus on cases that threaten national security, public order and the economic health of the country in preference to all others, could not have come at a more appropriate time.

This is not the first time that a member of the judiciary who has the opportunity to take a close look at the way the Central investigative agencies function has made an observation on the subject. In the last decade, the Supreme Court famously called the CBI “a caged parrot”, doing only what its master, the Union government, wants it to do.

The CBI has been acknowledged the world over as a professional criminal investigation organisation. Efforts have been made to keep it that way. The judiciary has interceded to ensure transparency in the selection of the head of the CBI and ensured that the appointee gets a minimum tenure. This is so that the leadership stays the course of a case and takes the team along. However, things have not changed much in the last one decade. The agency is still accused of doing the bidding of the party in power at the Centre.

The Enforcement Directorate (ED), the specialised professional agency mandated to chase black money and proceeds of crime, has, of late, transformed itself to an anti-corruption body. It dashes to states run by the Opposition parties and investigates cases against their leaders with a vigour not seen in officials originally looking into the principal offence. We do not hear much about the ED unearthing the money stashed away by drug mafia dons or even chasing them despite huge hauls of drugs in different parts of the country. But we do hear about its arrest of a minister or even a chief minister.

In many of these cases, investigations into allegations of corruption may have reached nowhere, but the ED is there, incarcerating people, with the Prevention of Money Laundering Act making the grant of bail next to impossible. People languish in jail while the agency with its poor record of conviction moves on to its next target.

The income tax department has temporarily stopped its action against political parties, even digging up decades-old cases, till the elections are over. A professional agency should be allowed to go ahead with its work unhindered, irrespective of the political climate, but it came to the apex court the other day with a suo motu suggestion of this “ceasefire”, knowing full well that its enthusiasm in the face of the Lok Sabha elections would not get the welcome in the court and in the minds of the people.

The Chief Justice was mindful of the difficult job the agencies do and hence his timely reminder about the need to strike a balance between administrative imperatives and the individual’s right to privacy as much as that between the due process of law and effective functioning. It may be a tough call to go the path the CJI has prescribed, but it is here that the agencies can demonstrate the professional excellence that they are reported to be examples of.
( Source : Deccan Chronicle )
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