From govt's caged parrot to punching bag; CBI hasn't seen worse days
Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has always had a weird reputation.
On the one hand, everyone including courts, state governments and ordinary citizens want cases transferred to and investigated by the agency. A testament to the caliber of its workforce and the tools they have to investigate with.
On the other, it is routinely accused of doing the central government's bidding. So much so that the Supreme Court of India called it "a caged parrot speaking in its master's voice."
CBI has always has had its critics. But most accusations hurled at it are usually meant for the party in power. The SC's remark the perfect example of this.
No one group paints a clearer picture of this than the country's politicians, who switch between being CBI's biggest fans or sharpest critics, depending on if they are in power or not. Every government has enough examples of this. The current one is no different.
But happenings of the last few months up till now have added a new dimension to it. They have transformed India's premier investigative agency from government's 'caged parrot' to its punching bag.
This has come in the form of the NDA government going after and removing, twice, its own appointee to the post of CBI Director, Alok Verma, following a tussle between him and his second-in-command Rakesh Asthana, another appointee of the NDA.
The nature and execution of the decision hurt the reputations of everyone including the agency, government and the selection panel (Constituting the PM, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha and Chief Justice of India) entrusted with appointing the CBI Director.
If this wasn't bad enough, Union Minister Arun Jaitley, till recently the country's Finance Minister, lambasted via social media, actions taken by the premier investigative agency in the ICICI bank fraud case. The first line of his blog post read, "There is a fundamental difference between investigative adventurism and professional investigation."
Whether right or wrong, public questioning of what is supposed to be an independent investigation raises more concerns than it answers. And the water just keeps getting murkier with the transfer of an SP level officer who lodged the FIR in the same fraud case, a day after he did it.
All this though does not by any means lets officers of the organisation off the hook. They have played their part in driving the CBI into its darkest days. Even if one looks past the latest dual between the top two of the agency, the fact that three out of the previous four of it chiefs have been under investigation in different matters speaks for itself.
The only good thing about the present mess seems to be that things have gotten so bad that they can only get better. It may start with the appointment of a new Director, something set to be done soon. The right choice could very well be the first step in the direction of rebuilding a reputation based on its investigative prowess and nothing else.