Progress report for CBI: Vital to know just how good the investigation agency is

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Published: February 13, 2020 4:00:53 AM

Given how many people CBI is probing, including high-profile politicians, it is important to know just how efficient it is—its conviction rates—and if it either start or stop cases due to political and other reasons.

The dilution of Vijay Mallya’s lookout notice, that allowed him to flee the country, was also done by the CBI.The dilution of Vijay Mallya’s lookout notice, that allowed him to flee the country, was also done by the CBI.

Though CBI has given its former special director Rakesh Asthana a clean chit in the bribery case it filed at the behest of then CBI chief Alok Verma, it has to be a matter of shame that doing so took over a year. Apart from the anguish this would have caused Asthana, it put his career on hold for a year; what of the fate of those less connected than Asthana? More so, given how easy it seems to be to frame people, especially given the agency’s own track record. A former CBI chief, AP Singh, had to resign from his position as Member of the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) following allegations of his links with UP-based meat exporter Moin Quereshi, who was being investigated by the tax authorities; another former CBI chief, Ranjit Sinha, was indicted by a Supreme Court-appointed panel for meeting several accused in the coal scam when the CBI was investigating the case; the SC also asked Sinha to keep off the 2G probe when it found the charges against him, of trying to help the accused, to be credible. The dilution of Vijay Mallya’s lookout notice, that allowed him to flee the country, was also done by the CBI. And, when Asthana was battling Verma, he had accused the CBI chief of taking bribes to put off the arrest of some accused, and even called off searches in a case involving RJD chief Lalu Prasad.

Given how many people CBI is probing, including high-profile politicians, it is important to know just how efficient it is—its conviction rates—and if it either start or stop cases due to political and other reasons. In its disproportionate assets (DA) case against former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati, the Supreme Court pulled up the agency for exceeding its brief in the Taj Corridor case against Mayawati; and, this is a case CBI had been pursuing for nine years! Similarly, it closed the DA probe against former UP CM Mulayam Singh Yadav in 2019, having initiated it in 2013. Was this due to government pressure, or did the CBI just not find anything; in which case, it needs to relook its manner of functioning.

Given this, for starters, why not put out data regularly on the number of cases the agency takes up, how many get to the courts, and how many result in a conviction? Though the CBI’s FAQs claim a 65-70% conviction rate—“comparable to the best agencies in the world”—if more information was put out, this could be independently corroborated. If the data was further disaggregated, more analysis—on, say, its record in political cases—could be done. And, once the information is there for everyone to see, there will be pressure to fix the obvious problem areas; given the CVC monitors the CBI’s investigations, it is not clear why it is not asking these questions or making the findings public.

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