Why Arun Jaitley is upset over the functioning of investigative agencies

By: | Updated: December 4, 2018 9:06 PM

Arun Jaitley Tuesday surprised many by asking the investigative agencies to follow the cardinal principles of remaining faceless and maintaining professionalism in their functioning.

 arun jaitley, cbi, ed, dri, Central Bureau of Investigation, Modi cabinet, directorate of revenue intelligence, corruption, supreme court, alok verma, rakesh asthana, enforcement directorateThe feud between two top officers of the CBI is not a new thing involving top intelligence officials. India has a long running history of tussle and tension between top intelligence officials and the government of the day. (PTI)

In an era of social media explosion and transparency in the system of governance, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley Tuesday surprised many by asking the investigative agencies to follow the cardinal principles of remaining faceless and maintaining professionalism in their functioning.

As one of the most senior ministers in the Modi cabinet, Jaitley has reasons to be concerned about any potential controversy involving any agency under his ministry as has happened with the two top most officers of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The CBI vs CBI episode has caused huge embarrassment to the Modi government.

Investigative agencies, by their very nature, are super secretive in their functioning. They are supposed to be manned by the top most officials of the country known for their impeccable integrity and professional competence, those who discharge their duties as mandated by the elected government.

New tussles, old history:

The feud between the number one and number two officers of the CBI is not a one off thing involving top intelligence officials. India has a long running history of tussles and tensions between top intelligence officials and the government of the day.

This long running history of intra and inter-agency rivalries and politics undermines the professionalism and functioning of these agencies. India also has instances of top government officials, serving military leaders clashing with the government of the day in the courts of law, and allegations and counter allegations caused extensive damage to the credibility of both the institutions.

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Jaitley’s advice offered at the 61st foundation day of Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) can be seen in the immediate backdrop of the feud between two topmost officers of CBI – it’s director Alok Verma and special director Rakesh Asthana, both of them were eventually removed from their posts in a midnight action by the government.

Both Verma and Asthana have approached courts and few other aggrieved officials of the agency have also landed at the doors of the apex court of the country pointing finger of wrongdoing and irregularities on others.

Earlier in February 2015, Prime Minister Modi had ordered removal of Anil Goswami, then union home secretary overseeing the entire internal security apparatus of the country, on the charges of alleged interference in CBI probe in Sharadha Scam involving Matang Singh, a junior minister in previous UPA government.

Anil Goswami was appointed by previous UPA government but after assuming the power in 2014 Prime Minister Modi had decided to retain him at the crucial position.

It’s not that only NDA government had to face embarrassment and court cases due to disagreements with senior officials or due to intra-agency rivalries, among other things.

Previous UPA government also had faced problems related to the appointment of top officers in CBI and Enforcement Directorate (ED) during its 10-year long tenure.

Posting of UP Police cadre officer Rajeshwar Singh who was brought to the enforcement directorate from UP police on deputation and was entrusted with the probe of money laundering angle in sensitive cases related to 2G spectrum scam resulted in tension between the government and the high profile outspoken officer.

Rajeshwar Singh has approached the supreme court on several occasions as the court was supervising the probe into 2G spectrum allocation related scams.

Also, UPA could not smoothly appoint the successor to outgoing CBI chief Vijay Shankar in 2008 as front-runner ML Sharma’s name, who was special director of the agency at that time, was dropped at the last moment.

It was alleged that some senior official in the previous UPA government was against giving the charge of CBI to ML Sharma despite him being one year senior to Ashwani Kumar, then police chief of Himachal Pradesh, as Sharma had objected to the agency’s decision of not contesting the discharge of US-based hotelier Sant Singh Chatwal who was accused in bank corruption cases.

But these tussles between the government of the day and top officials of intelligence agencies are much older than that.

In July 1997, then Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral, had sacked CBI director Joginder Singh when he was mid-air while returning to India after participating in a conference of Interpol in France.

Gujral government had retained Joginder Singh as CBI director precisely till the time he was to represent India at the Interpol conference in France in his official capacity.

Joginder Singh was CBI director when he had boarded the return flight to India but was divested of his portfolio mid-air and sent to an obscure position in the ministry of home affairs.

Finance Minister Jaitley’s advice to investigative agencies to follow the ‘cardinal principles’ of maintaining utmost professionalism and remain faceless in their functioning should serve as a warning to other agencies outside his ministry as well.

Rarely these court cases and individual bickering among the top officials have served any larger public purpose except sullying the image of the institution. And it has often undermined the most valuable thing, the public trust in those organisations these officers are supposed to serve.

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