The Curious Bureau of Investigation


By Raman Kirpal

Illustration: Sudeep Chaudhuri

THE HEALTHIEST societies are those with no fear of investigation. Where getting to the root of things is an essential activity of modern life. Where the act of probing is imbued with such an impersonal halo that the consequences are accepted as just. Institutions do this best. In India, there is the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), created in 1963 as an agency to fight corruption and criminalisation of politics. Forty-seven years later, corruption and criminalisation of politics are still the big challenges. The CBI, meanwhile, has moved from the untouchable to the doubted. If we were to look for the butterfly that would flap its wings and trigger changes in today’s India, it would have to be the CBI. The polity would then know fear. We would know justice.

But, the CBI carries baggage. Legally, its status is that of “an attached office” of the Ministry of Personnel that comes directly under the Prime Minister. It draws its powers from a resolution created under the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act of 1946. Under the Act, the CBI can act on its own in Union Territories, but needs the permission of the States to investigate any public servant in their jurisdiction. The CBI cannot file a Special Leave Petition (SLP) on its own and needs to take permission from the Ministry of Law. An SLP means you take special permission to be heard in appeal against a High Court or tribunal verdict. For instance, a CBI-designated court exonerated former Railways Minister Lalu Prasad in a disproportionate assets case. The CBI says it has a strong case against him, but the law ministry did now allow the CBI to appeal. Also, the CBI cannot initiate investigations against a government officer of the rank of Joint Secretary and above without the concurrence of the Central government. There are more than 30 such applications with the government.

Even for prosecution, the CBI will have to seek the permission of the Central government. A CBI officer cannot go out of India for investigations without the permission of the Central government. Investigators need to travel in today’s world, even if only to track black money or unaccounted money in foreign banks. In a famous case, they needed to chase Ottavio Quattrocchi, once the prime accused in the Bofors case. The law ministry recommended closure of the case, because the investigations could not be completed. Quattrocchi went free.

Parliament, specifically the Lok Sabha is likely to discuss the role of the CBI in this session largely because a member is taking the initiative in his personal capacity. “The existence of the CBI itself is not legal. In my private member’s bill, I am planting the seeds. Maybe the ideas will fructify years later,” says Manish Tewari of the Congress. This brings us to us. As a government, as a society, we accept this caricature of our most independent institutions. Nothing good has ever come from humiliating one’s own honour. Nothing right happens when we fear the truth. The Americans do it a little better, at least in principle. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has a budget on a scale that the CBI can only aspire for, it has the freedom, and it has acquired respect over time. We chained the CBI. It is for us to set it free.

50 Questions the CBI Needs to Answer

50. GUJARAT FAKE ENCOUNTERS: Why didn’t the CBI look into the complaints filed against Abhay Chudasama?
Abhay Chudasama was the former head of the Crime Branch in Ahmedabad and was arrested in April this year for his alleged involvement in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter. The CBI alleges that he operated an extensive extortion racket — to fleece money from businessmen and builders — with Sohrabuddin as his henchman. The 2,000-page chargesheet filed by the agency before a special CBI court in Ahmedabad on 23 July names 15 people, including Chudasama, for serious offences like abduction, criminal conspiracy, murder and extortion. Abhay Chudasama was the trusted police officer of Gujarat’s former minister of state for home, Amit Shah.
49. Why haven’t police officers Geeta Johri and OP Mathur — who were responsible for fudging the case — been taken into custody nor have their statements been recorded?
OP Mathur was the chief of CID (Crime) and Geeta Johri was IGP when the state agency was investigating the Sohrabuddin case under direction of the Supreme Court before the court handed the probe to the CBI. Initially, Johri received accolades for finding evidence against top police officers and later a rap from the apex court for not conducting a proper probe. Both the officers are now at the centre of a storm and are due to have multiple interrogation sessions with the CBI.
48. SOHRABUDDIN MURDER CASE: Why hasn’t the CBI grilled former Rajasthan Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria, who had allegedly given the signal to get Sohrabuddin Sheikh killed?
According to reports, Azam Khan, the CBI witness in the Sohrabuddin case, revealed that the Rajasthan firm, RK Marbles, paid 10 crore to Gulab Chand Kataria to eliminate Sohrabuddin. It is also said that Azam Khan revealed, both Gujarat Police and Rajasthan Police were involved in the Sohrabuddin murder
47. Has the investigating agency failed to implicate cops, whose liaison with top politicians in their nefarious activities has now been proved?
The Gujarat CID filed a chargesheet in the encounter case of Tulsi Prajapati against seven police officers in the Danta court of Banaskantha district only on 30 July this year. The chargesheet named three IPS officers DG Vanzara, Vipul Agrawal and MN Dinesh as the main accused in the case. Vanzara and Dinesh have been in police custody for over three years. Prajapati, the sole witness to the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter in November 2005, was killed in an encounter a year later in December 2006. When Dinesh, an IPS officer of the Rajasthan cadre, was arrested in connection with the encounter in 2007, then Rajasthan Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria and the the DGP flew to Gujarat to intervene on his behalf.
46. HAREN PANDYA MURDER: Why isn’t the CBI able to trace Mufti Sufiyan?
Haren Pandya’s murder has returned to haunt the Modi government after his family approached the CBI sleuths investigating the Sohrabuddin case to look into the matter. Pandya, who was a former Gujarat home minister, was killed by a gunman, Asghar Ali, at the instigation of Mufti Sufiyan. There were allegations that Modi and Amit Shah were behind Pandya’s murder. Pandya had taken on Modi publicly by not vacating the Ellisbridge seat and had deposed in front of an independent team of judges probing the 2002 riots case. Sufiyan, a young cleric, made a quick name for himself making incendiary speeches at Ahmedabad’s Lal Masjid. It is known that he had become more hardline following the 2002 violence, fanning counter-communal flames during his post-prayer discourses. It is also known he had links with Ahmedabad’s underworld
45. Why doesn’t the CBI chargesheet explain how Sufiyan was allowed to escape from the country six days after the encounter? 44. Why hasn’t Chief Minister Narendra Modi been questioned on his role in the transfer of investigating officers? 43. Why couldn’t the CBI send a letter rogatory for tracing Sufiyan abroad?
42. Why did the CBI not investigate the Tulsi Prajapati case and arrest the accused when the SC gave it a directive in its order that it needs to investigate the larger conspiracy? 41. The SC has adjourned the hearing in the Prajapati case for a month. This will give enough time for the CID to take custody of officers to carry on its trial. Had the CBI started its investigation, this could have been avoided. Why this oversight?
40. Didn’t the CBI act at the behest of the BJP, which was in power, as per the allegations made by Pandya’s father, Vithal Pandya?
According to reports, almost immediately after Pandya’s murder, his father, Vithal Pandya, had alleged a political conspiracy in the murder, and pointed fingers at Gujarat Chief Minister Modi. However, the CBI said that it didn’t find any such links. Asghar Ali, the main assailant, was later arrested from Hyderabad. According to the CBI, Asghar had been contracted by Ahmedabad-based cleric Mufti Sufiyan to eliminate Pandya and avenge the post-Godhra riots. Vithal Pandya even testified before the Godhra Inquiry Commission that his son had told him the 2002 communal riots were statesponsored and were orchestrated by Narendra Modi.
On 28 April 2010, Mayawati saved the UPA government with her party support against a cut motion in Parliament. Within a week, Income Tax authorities gave her a clean chit in the assets case. Why has the CBI, which had openly stated in the Supreme Court that it is ready to initiate prosecution against Mayawati, let her off the hook for all practical purposes?

The CBI filed a disproportionate assets case against Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati, whose net worth had multiplied from 1 crore in 2003 to 50 crore in 2007. The sleuths also listed several properties, including benamis, belonging to Mayawati. The CBI claims it is ready to prosecute, but it has not filed any chargesheet to date.
38. TAJ CORRIDOR CASE: Will the CBI make public its case diaries, if the investigation reaches a dead end?
In 2002, Mayawati initiated a project worth 175 crore for upgrading tourist facilities near the Taj Mahal. The CBI charged her with embezzlement. In its report, the CBI said 74 crore was spent, though no actual civil construction was done, and only stone boulders were dumped at the site.
37. Why hasn’t a chargesheet been filed against Mayawati even after six years in the DA case? 36. The CBI had sought a clearance from the UP governor to prosecute Mayawati. Did the sleuths try again once the governor prevented Mayawati from being prosecuted by refusing to lift her official immunity.
35. J&K SEX SCANDAL: Is Omar Abdullah among the accused in the 2006 Kashmir sex scandal case, as alleged by the People’s Democratic Party?
The scandal created a furore across Kashmir, affecting the entire range of politicians, police, paramilitary officials and bureaucrats. The scandal surfaced in April 2006 after the police discovered two VCDs showing Kashmiri women being sexually-exploited. The PDP alleged that Omar was named in the list of accused prepared by the CBI.
34. Why is the CBI taking so long to file a chargesheet? 33. Why did the CBI let off the police officers arrested in the case?
32. MISSILE SCAM: Why didn’t the CBI question George Fernandes for two years after filing the FIR in 2006?
The CBI registered an FIR against George Fernandes for alleged irregularities in purchasing the Barak missile system from Israel in 2000. However, he claimed the scientific adviser to the defence minister, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, had cleared the deal. The CBI alleged kickbacks worth 2 crore were paid.
31. JUDEO BRIBERY CASE: Why has the CBI developed cold feet in the Dilip Singh Judeo bribery case?
A minister in the BJP-led coalition government at the Centre, Judeo was accused of accepting a bribe from an Australian company in exchange for mining rights in Chhattisgarh. He was caught on camera receiving the bribe. In 2005, the CBI claimed that the exposé was masterminded by Amit Jogi, son of Ajit Jogi.
30. MULAYAM DA CASE: What stopped the CBI from proceeding against Mulayam Singh Yadav in 2007? Why did it send the prosecution report to the Centre before submitting it to the court?
The investigating agency submitted a preliminary report in October 2007 and claimed to have sufficient evidence to book the former Uttar Pradesh chief minister. It sought permission to go ahead with the probe without reference to the Union government.
29. In 2009, the CBI sought to withdraw an application about filing a report on inquiry against Mulayam. Didn’t it act at the Centre’s behest?
In July 2008, the CBI’S stance changed after the Left withdrew support to the Central government. As the Congress opened negotiations with the Samajwadi Party, efforts were started to dilute the case against Yadav.
28. LALU-RABRI DA CASE: Why is the CBI not moving against them despite claiming that it has sufficient proof to move the HC against the couple?
Since 2004, the CBI abandoned years of inquiry and allowed the UPA government to manipulate facts to favour Lalu Prasad and wife Rabri Devi in the disproportionate assets case. In 2006, a CBI-designated court acquitted the couple. After the acquittal, the CBI did not appeal in the High Court. Later, the CBI gave up its claims against the couple, rubbished its original arguments, and went on to support Lalu.
27. OP CHAUTALA DA CASE: There are allegations that the CBI started proceedings against Om Prakash Chautala only after he became politically irrelevant to the UPA government. What is the CBI’s take on this?
The CBI filed a chargesheet against former Om Prakash Chautala for allegedly possessing assets worth 6 crore disproportionate to his known sources of income. The chargesheet was filed after the CBI received sanction from the Assembly Speaker. Chautala, 75, was a five-time chief minister and last held the post from 1999 to 2005. The veteran leader currently represents Uchana Kalan constituency of Hissar district in Haryana.
26. SHARIEF DA CASE: The CBI is under the direct control of the PM. Then why didn’t it get the permission to prosecute former minister, CK Jaffer Sharief, against whom it had established a prima facie case?
In 1997, the CBI registered a case of disproportionate assets and alleged misuse of office against former minister CK Jaffer Sharief. Eleven premises of Sharief and persons close to him were raided and the CBI said: “Incriminating documents relating to the property transactions of the accused have been seized.” In 2006, the CBI filed a closure report because the Centre refused permission to prosecute Sharief.
25. The CBIwas an active agency in investigating Lalu Prasad during the NDA regime. The same agency has been acting passive since 2004, when the UPA government came to power. Why? 24. Why hasn’t the CBI moved the Patna High Court against Lalu’s acquittal? Isn’t he an accused in the case anymore? 23. Why did the CBI take time in applying against the bail application of Pappu Yadav? Why did it take more than two months to put him back in jail?
22. JAYA ‘GIFT’ CASE: Has the Jayalalithaa case been put to sleep? Can the CBI enlighten us with the case status?
According to the CBI, former Tamil Nadu CM Jayalalithaa received a donation of 30 million from abroad and showed the same in her income tax returns during 1992-93. Since it was a gift in foreign exchange, no tax was levied. But when Tamil Manila Congress leader P Chidambaram was finance minister in the HD Deve Gowda government, he asked the then CBI chief Joginder Singh to identify the source of the donation. Singh sent a letter rogatory to the Channel Islands. The CBI investigation is still on.
21. PROVIDENT FUND SCAM: After nearly two years of investigation, the CBI still claims it doesn’t have enough evidence to launch prosecution against the judges? What’s the reason?
In April 2010, the CBI indicted three sitting Uttar Pradesh High Court judges, UP Consumer Commission chairperson and the Upa Lok Ayukta by naming them in the multi-crore PF scam probe status report submitted to the Supreme Court. Apart from naming former Supreme Court judge Justice Tarun Chatterjee, the list includes the names of three sitting HC judges. It was alleged that between 2001 and 2008, Ghaziabad District Court treasury officer, Ashutosh Asthana, colluded with district judges — some of whom went on to become HC judges — to siphon off crores from the PF accounts of Class III and IV employees, causing a huge loss to the exchequer.
20. Why hasn’t the investigating agency made any attempt to question the judges? 19. Why hasn’t the CBI raided the judges despite prima facie evidence against them?
18. BOFORS KICKBACKS CASE: Why did the CBI withdraw a red-corner notice against Ottavio Quattrocchi despite getting him arrested two times in Malaysia and Argentina?
Whenever there was a non-Congress regime at the Centre, the investigating agency fiercely fought against giving any relief to Italian arms dealer Ottavio Quattrocchi in the infamous Bofors bribery case. The sleuths chased him in Malaysia, Argentina and elsewhere even after former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi died. But, the CBI has quietly pulled the curtains down on the case.
17. BIG BULL STOCK SCAM: During questioning, Harshad Mehta revealed many secrets about politicians and bureaucrats. Why didn’t the CBI probe their role?
Harshad Mehta was a stockbroker alleged to have engineered the rise in the BSE index in 1992. Exploiting several loopholes in the banking system, Mehta and his associates siphoned off funds from inter-bank transactions and bought shares heavily at a premium, triggering a rise in the Sensex. When the scheme was exposed, the banks started demanding the money back, causing the collapse. Mehta was later charged with 72 criminal offences.
16. UREA SCAM: Why did the CBI exonerate PV Prabhakar Rao in the urea scam case?
Prime accused in the 1995 urea scam such as former PM PV Narasimha Rao’s nephew, B Sanjeeva Rao, and son, PV Prabhakar Rao, went scot-free.
15. Sanjeeva Rao had confessed he knew where the kickback money was stashed. Then, why wasn’t he named in the chargesheet? 14. Who were the officials from the PMO involved?
13. JMM BRIBERY CASE: What has the CBI done after most of the accused were held guilty in the JMM bribery case?
Such were the details of the scandal that the SC coined two phrases — ‘bribe-giving MPs’ and ‘bribe-taking MPs’ — to understand the Constitution’s immunity provision, which was inserted to help MPs express themselves fearlessly in the House. The SC ruled that bribe-giving MPs didn’t enjoy immunity and were liable to be prosecuted.
12. Why didn’t the CBI probe the role of politicians in the Satyam case? On 7 January 2009, Satyam chairman Ramalinga Raju resigned after notifying board members and the SEBI that the IT company’s account had been falsified to the tune of more than 5,000 crore. 11.JAIN HAWALA CASE:The Supreme Court had criticised the CBI for the shoddy investigation against the politicians in the Hawala case. What lessons has the CBI learnt from this judgment?

What did the CBI team get after its visit to St. Kitts to probe the forgery case?

In the St. Kitts forgery case, former Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao, along with minister KK Tewary, godman Chandraswami and his secretary KN Aggarwal were accused of forging documents showing that Ajeya Singh had opened a bank account in the First Trust Corporation Bank in St Kitts and deposited $21 million in 1989, making his father VP Singh its beneficiary. The alleged intent was to tarnish VP Singh’s image. However, the CBI formally charged Rao only after his term as PM expired in 1996. Later, the court acquitted him due to lack of evidence. All the other accused were eventually acquitted.

The CBI gathered no evidence other than oral in the Babri Masjid demolition case? Why?

On 6 December 1992, the Babri Masjid was allegedly brought down by RSS and BJP workers at the instigation of senior leaders. The CBI had chargesheeted 24 leaders, including LK Advani. A Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court will deliver judgment on 17 September. The issue is so sensitive that Mayawati has called in 300 companies of paramilitary forces in advance to handle the post-judgment scenario.

Why didn’t the CBI collect corroborative evidence against such sensitive accusations against top political bosses?

The CBI was reportedly reluctant to collect evidence in the cheating case. Lakhubhai Pathak, an Indian businessman based in England, alleged that godman Chandraswami and his secretary KN Aggarwal, along with PV Narasimha Rao, cheated him out of $100,000. The amount was given for the promise of allowing supplies of paper pulp in India.


Why didn’t the CBI continue its probe against the politicians named by Abdul Karim Telgi?

During questioning after his arrest in 2006, Telgi named Sharad Pawar, Chhagan Bhujbal, several politicians and bureaucrats, among those who allegedly helped him in running the scam. Telgi used to sell fruits on trains and later became a travel agent. In 1994, he acquired a licence from the government and began printing fake stamp paper.

5. Does the CBI believe that one man could have run such a big scam without political patronage? 4. What has the CBI dug up in the multi-crore spectrum scam? 3. After two years, what has the CBI got in the Aarushi case?


The CBI’s flip-flop continues against Sajjan Kumar in the 1984 case. Why?

The CBI alleges that Sajjan Kumar is absconding and is availing legal remedies available to protect his liberty. On 23 February, the trial court criticised the CBI for giving “lame excuses” for not arresting him. “Is this the manner in which the CBI functions? Where have all the accused gone?” the magistrate asked.


Why did it take the CBI nearly 15 years to give a clean chit to Congress MP Jagdish Tytler?

During four days of violence in north India, particularly Delhi, armed mobs, belonging to the Indian National Congress, killed unarmed Sikh men, women and children, looted and set fire to Sikh homes, businesses and schools, and attacked gurdwaras. On 10 February this year, the CBI concluded its arguments before a Delhi court by supporting its closure report and gave a clean chit to former Union minister Jagdish Tytler. The role of Tytler was re-investigated by the CBI after a court refused to accept a closure report filed by the agency against him in December 2007. Earlier, the CBI gave a second clean chit to Tytler on 2 April 2009, claiming lack of sufficient evidence against him. The CBI has been given two months by a Delhi court to file a detailed reply to an application filed by a victim for certain documents relied upon by the probe agency in giving clean chit to Tytler.

With inputs from Rana Ayyub, Srikanth S and Anukampa Gupta

Photos: Trupti Patel, AP


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