In a presentation to Minister of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions Jitendra Singh, the CBI flagged several issues to free the agency from pressures and red-tape.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Saturday made a strong case before the Narendra Modi Government for greater autonomy and more skilled hands to handle the huge pile up of cases.

In a comprehensive presentation to the Minister of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions Jitendra Singh, the CBI team led by its Director Ranjit Sinha flagged several issues to free the agency from pressures and red-tape.

The presentation came months after the Supreme Court had vowed to ‘liberate’ the investigation authority from ‘political influence’. For several years now senior BJP leaders like the current Finance Minister Arun Jaitley have been charging the UPA of using CBI to fix political opponents.

On several occasions the BJP leaders have dubbed the CBI as the Congress Bureau of Investigation to buttress their argument that every time the Congress needed support of parties like the Samajvadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samajvadi Party (BSP) it threatened to `unleash’ the agency.

The CBI power-point presentation sought to dispel the “myth of autonomy” of the agency by underscoring its administrative and financial dependence on the Department of Personnel and Training. The recent Supreme Court direction on grant of greater degree of financial autonomy to CBI has been accepted in principle by the government, but there has been no concurrence from the Finance Ministry.

Sources in the agency said that the Minister heard the delegation but did not give any concrete assurances on when his government would remedy the situation.

Following the presentation, Dr. Singh said the CBI is overburdened due to lack of manpower and necessary infrastructure. “It was formal introductory meeting and all the issues raised would be taken up one by one,” he told the reporters.

The Union Minister expressed happiness that the agency enjoyed confidence of the people, pointing out that even cases of less significance were being referred to the CBI for investigations.

On the question of autonomy and redress of other issues plaguing the premier agency, the Union Minister said the government had assumed office only a few days ago and that the issues would be taken up at the earliest.

The issue of financial crunch --- due to which the agency is not even able to pay for the maintenance of its Delhi headquarters and the proposed Mumbai hub is yet to come up -- was also raised. The issue gains significance given that prosecutors have now refused to work citing non-payment of remunerations. One of them has even moved the Delhi High Court.

The agency had earlier sought its inclusion under the police modernisation fund scheme, but to no avail, to meet expenses.

The presentation also highlighted that CBI Director had virtually no role to play in the selection of officers, Superintendent of Police and above, as he is presently only an invitee to the Selection Committee of the Central Vigilance Commission. The CBI informed the Union Minister that about 15 per cent of positions are vacant in different departments.

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