Excerpts From An Interview
The burning issue right now is what we should do to free the CBI from political meddling. What is your prescription?
One view is that why don’t you just make the CBI more autonomous, in the sense, let the director be appointed by a congregation of the Lokpal and a Parliamentary Standing Committee that comprises of different political formations. Give the director a fixed tenure, to start with, say, of five years.
In the US, the FBI director is appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. But we can’t have it here because we don’t have the presidential system. So let him be appointed by a panel of the Lokpal combined with the Standing Committee.
With the government being in minority in the selection panel?
Frankly, if you ask me, we are very suspicious people. I mean, after all, Lokpal is also a part of an organisation. Whether you have the government representatives in minority or majority in the panel, I don’t mind. You could say that the CBI director should be appointed by consensus or say, by a minimum of two-thirds majority. You can work out any reasonable formulation. But give him a fixed tenure of five years so that he is secure in his job. And vest the administrative control of the organisation with him. Of course, the Lokpal may have the power to ask for information, periodical reports and give overall general directions.
But no day-to-day monitoring or supervision of the CBI by anybody?
What I have just suggested is good enough supervision, which is the Lokpal could ask for reports, refer matters to the CBI, take periodical reviews, etc.
And the power to do transfers, postings, promotions.
Let it be with the director.
Many are arguing that it’s not a good thing to give absolute power to any police agency. Also extending your argument about unnecessary mistrust in elected governments, we are ready to repose our full faith in a non-elected CBI director who is not answerable to Parliament, but are not willing to trust elected representatives. After all, we are parliamentary democracy and not an oligarchy.
He would certainly be answerable and accountable. He could be subject to removal by Parliament or by the Standing Committee or by the consensus of both the Lokpal and the committee. There are many ways to make him accountable to Parliament
The idea is to create a mechanism that allows the CBI investigator to act in an independent and honest way. And not to be deflected in any way or be afraid of anybody.
After all, the judges are only removable by Parliament. Even the magistrate of ours has so much of independence and irremovability with him. Then there’s no way even the prime minister can interfere in his work. That’s the theory.
Now, if he chooses to be dishonest, what can you do? We are all human beings. The idea is to create a mechanism that permits you, on the assumption that the person is honest, you also remain honest, and therefore it will be a pressure on him to be honest.
The way going forward is to create a system of checks and balances.
That’s always very important.
But Team Anna is advocating that only the system devised by them is perfect.
That’s too presumptuous. Frankly, they may have a point of view. For example, if you ask me, I’m not in favour of having this so-called C and D grade employees under the Lokpal. That’s ridiculous. See, I think it’s a very bad situation, where you are told that barring 9-10 people, everybody else is dishonest. Or anybody who differs with their views is dishonest. The whole idea of creating a Lokpal is to deal with big cases of corruption.
Ashish Khetan is Editor, Investigations with Tehelka.