Autonomy is overrated
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The CBI needs to be strengthened by reforms in recruitment, training and investigative techniques.
The Constitution and various statutes have created institutions like Parliament and state assemblies, Central and state governments, the
SC and high courts, Election Commission, CAG, CVC and CBI with clearly defined roles. Many of these are intended to oversee the functioning of government, especially the way it spends revenues and manages resources. Ordinarily, there should be no doubt about the scope of autonomy and independence such institutions should enjoy. This arrangement is also designed to create a healthy tension between the government and oversight institutions. How this tension is played out determines how well each of these institutions can function.
After the Supreme Court, the EC and CAG managed to secure a very independent and somewhat intimidating profile vis-à-vis the government, the CBI is attempting to secure a similar role for itself. Such desire for autonomy is very laudable, it may be even beneficial. However, as far as the government and many of these institutions are concerned, the complex web of relationships in which they work makes it impossible, or undesirable, for them to work in complete freedom from each other or under the oversight and control of only one institution, namely, the judiciary.
After the SC ruling in the Vineet Narain case, the CBI has been enjoying considerable freedom. The director and other senior officers are appointed and removed on the CVC's advice. The director is appointed for a fixed term of two years, irrespective of his/ her date of retirement. Transfers and postings are entirely the director's prerogative. The CBI is not required to consult the Central government at all about cases it is investigating.
The only area where the CBI is not free is in spending beyond its approved budget and in its decision to appeal against various judicial orders. It also needs, as per law, the government's permission to investigate or prosecute certain classes of officers. Thus, it is clear there is no reason for the CBI director or officers to feel caged. In spite of this, if they continue to heed the Central government's or ministers' advice, it must be entirely of their own volition. There is nothing in the system that compels them to accede to any unlawful request from the government.
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