It enjoys complete functional independence: outgoing director A.P. Singh
As cases of economic offences, cyber crime and corruption show an upward trend, the CBI plans to turn itself into a multi-disciplinary agency by opening its closely-guarded doors to chartered accountants, audit specialists and analysts.
“The government has agreed to our proposal to bring specialists to the agency on deputation, utilise their expertise in cracking cases speedily and improve the probe quality,” outgoing CBI Director Amar Pratap Singh told The Hindu in his swanky office here on Wednesday. He demits office on November 30 when Ranjit Sinha will take over.
Mr. Singh said the CBI’s current employee strength of 6,000 should be doubled to handle complex cases. “We have capabilities to handle only about 1,000 cases every year, of which nearly 200 are banking cases. Disposal of cases under trial has improved considerably after 66 of the 71 special CBI courts have become operational. These courts have come as a big relief.”
“Allegations of bias baseless”
Describing his tenure as a “roller coaster ride,” Mr. Singh regretted that he could hardly find time to “think, regroup and strategise” for the agency. Pointing to contradictions in perceptions among people about the CBI’s functioning, he said while it was a matter of pride that demands for probe by the agency came from all quarters, it was also often branded the one doing the bidding for the government.
“Such allegations of bias are totally baseless, unfounded and unfortunate,” he said when asked about cases against politicians being kept pending by the CBI. His obvious reference was to the two cases against Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav and Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati in which the CBI faced flak for “adopting a flip-flop” attitude. He pointed out that the two cases were before the Supreme Court and the CBI would comply with its directions.
Asked about the increasing role being played by the civil society in carrying out anti-corruption campaign across the country and the demands for a Lokpal to check corruption in high places and it exercising control over the CBI, Mr. Singh said that even members of the civil society were convinced that the CBI must remain central in the anti-corruption mechanism and its role should not be diluted in any manner. He pointed out that the CBI’s views on a collegium selecting its chief was endorsed by the Rajya Sabha’s Select Committee on Lokpal.
“If and when the Lokpal comes into existence, the CBI’s relations with it will evolve over time as they happened with the Central Vigilance Commissioner. We also have to go through the scrutiny by competent courts and several of our important cases are monitored by constitutional courts which have commended our work. We conduct free and fair investigations without fear or favour. The CBI enjoys complete functional independence.”
Mr. Singh, during whose tenure the CBI handled high-profile cases including the 2G spectrum allocation scam, the Commonwealth Games scam, the Obulapuram illegal mining case and the coal blocks allocation scam, sought to dispel the perception that it often compromised its independence at the hands of the government. Citing the 2G case, he said that monitoring by the Supreme Court came as a “welcome” development which helped in having daily hearings and setting up a special court for it.
Going after the big fish
On the strengths and areas of concern of the CBI, he said while the agency could match any other world-class anti-corruption agency in cracking corruption cases and cyber crimes, it needed better support from forensics.
“In cases like 2G, coal blocks allocation and the National Rural Health Mission scam, we had to set up big teams and our normal investigation suffered. We also tackled corruption in lower courts in Andhra Pradesh in uncovering the cash-for-bail scam. We are going after big fish but the CBI also differentiates between acts with criminal intent and bona fide mistakes or errors in judgments or commercial decisions,” he asserted.