‘On probes, the CBI should be answerable only to the courts’

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Excerpts From An Interview

JS Verma
JS Verma, Photo: Abhinandita Mathur

Are you disappointed that the directions laid out in your landmark judgment to make theCBI an autonomous body have not been implemented?

The judgment dealt with the ways to ensure autonomy and free functioning of the CBI. But we all know that the CBI today is anything but an independent agency. The judgment says that there cannot be any interference in the CBI’s investigation and prescribed various methods to make it more effective. But if there is a better method to ensure autonomy than the SC judgment, it should be adopted. I’ll be more than happy.

Team Anna says the CBI’s anti-corruption wing should be subsumed under the Lokpal but the government has rejected the proposition.
I’m not in favour of the CBI being under the Lokpal or being answerable to the Lokpal as far as the investigations and prosecution are concerned. These are statutory provisions that need to be followed. The CBI should only be answerable to the courts as far as investigations are concerned. The court must decide what needs to be done after filing of final reports under Section 173 of the CrPC. Investigation and prosecution cannot be under the control of the government or the Lokpal or any other body.

Not even administrative?
Government control cannot be completely ignored. You cannot remove political executive from a parliamentary form of governance. The minister concerned is answerable and accountable to Parliament. When it comes to money sanctions even for courts, the funds are allotted by the government. There is no harm in the CBI being under the superintendence of the Lokpal or the CVC as laid down in the Narain judgment. Superintendence has nothing to do with statutory functions like investigation. It means a supervisory role. The CVC should be made an ex-officio member of the Lokpal. There is no harm in this.

Are you in favour of making the appointment of the CBI director free from political control?
Appointments are an executive decision. Even in the appointment of judges, the executive plays a role. Recommendations are sent by the collegium but the appointment is done by the President only after the PMO forwards it. I feel the CJI should not be included in this because matters related to the appointment might go to court. At the same time, it should be ensured that the prime minister or anybody else should not have any veto powers as far as appointments are concerned. Also the CBI director should be barred from accepting post-retirement government assignments.

In today’s scenario, what is the best possible way of ensuring the CBI’s autonomy?
The only way is to select good people. Laws remain the same but individuals act differently. This applies to all institutions and not just the CBI. There are people who are outstanding and there are others who are not so good. Choose a person who has no past to hide and is not looking for anything in future. We must work to strengthen existing institutions. Everyone from a peon to the prime minister cannot be under the Lokpal. It is impractical and would make the Lokpal ineffective.

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