SC should intervene, says petitioner behind reforms in collection of CBI chief

Objecting to the ordinances which empower the Centre to nominate chiefs of the Central Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement Directorate for tenures as much as 5 years, the petitioner within the landmark 1997 Supreme Court judgment, which granted “independence” to the CBI and glued a two-year time period for its director, has mentioned the apex courtroom ought to now intervene and do a course correction.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Vineet Narain, who filed a petition in 1993 whereby he questioned the shackling of the company, mentioned: “Now the Honourable Supreme Court ought to take cognizance of this order and consider its benefit within the gentle of its personal earlier judgment of 1997. The Supreme Court ought to intervene and resolve how the spirit of autonomy needs to be maintained within the CBI in addition to the Enforcement Directorate.’’

While the federal government, Narain mentioned, was inside its proper to convey an ordinance on the topic, it ought to ideally have approached the Supreme Court earlier than doing so and held a dialogue on the ground of Parliament.

“Ideally, the government should have taken both prior steps: debated the matter in Parliament and allowed the Supreme Court to revisit the matter too,” he mentioned.

Narain mentioned whereas he had no downside with a set 5-year tenure for the heads of the 2 investigating businesses, the prolonged tenures needs to be given to them as a one-time appointment.

Elaborating on his objections to the present state of affairs, he mentioned: “The CBI and ED are sensitive organisations and there have been any number of allegations of the government of the day misusing them. Giving the directors piecemeal extensions of a few months or a year at a time will lead to blackmailing them and with this the independence of the agencies will be thrown out of the window.”

“To keep the process transparent, the five-year tenure must be given in one go so that swords are not left hanging on the chiefs of the CBI and ED,” Narain mentioned.

Former CBI administrators had differing views on the ordinances. While some welcomed it, others mentioned this could compromise the independence of the businesses.

Former CBI director A P Singh mentioned: “The FBI director has a 10-year tenure. Even though the ordinance does not provide for a fixed five-year term, I welcome it. At least the director will have an opportunity to pursue cases longer and take them to the logical conclusion. All extensions will have to be approved by the PM-led committee where the CJI and Leader of Opposition will also have an opinion.”

It was Singh who in 2011 had really useful to Parliamentary committees that the CBI director ought to have a set tenure of 5 years. His advice, made throughout consideration of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill, 2011, by Parliamentary committees, was ultimately rejected.

But one other former CBI director, who didn’t want to be named, had a distinct take. “Through this order, the government has dangled a carrot in front of the CBI and ED directors that if you toe the line you might get an extension beyond your tenure. This can seriously compromise the independence of the agency. Every director will want to have a longer tenure. Earlier, a director who was not looking for a cushy post-retirement job could work with a modicum of independence because he knew he would not be removed before his tenure ends.”

Former CBI particular director M L Sharma agreed with this view. “There are two ways to see it. They (CBI and ED directors) need to have longer tenures. But if they (government) wanted to give longer tenure, they should have fixed it. But to split that tenure in three parts is like the stick-and-carrot policy. It will compromise the autonomy of the agency. They will also have to prostrate before the committee members. No bureaucrat wants to retire. I don’t find it to be a very positive move,” he mentioned.

Former CBI director Vijay Shankar mentioned: “It is the privilege of the government. If they can do it for two years, they can do it for more. As far as the question of the agency being compromised is concerned, it will depend upon the person who is heading the agency.”