The reported move of the Parliamentary Standing Committee to recommend that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) seek approval of the Lokpal, both for charge sheets and for its closure or final reports on investigations, contradicts the objective of making the CBI autonomous, sources in the agency said on Wednesday.
“This provision goes against the stated objectives of making the investigation agency autonomous, not answerable or liable to be monitored by either the administrative ministry or the Lokpal and protect the integrity of investigation,” the sources said.
They took strong objection to the two provisions, learnt to be recommended by the Parliamentary panel, that all complaints of corruption cases other than trap cases shall first be scrutinised by the Lokpal by holding a preliminary enquiry; and the CBI charge sheet or closure report must be filed after taking the approval of the Lokpal by making suitable changes in the Cr.PC (Section 173).
“These provisions, if introduced in the Lokpal Act, can severely impair the effectiveness of anti-corruption efforts,” the sources said.
They said: “At present the CBI gathers information from various sources, plans and executes a search operation to collect documents and evidence but if the preliminary enquiry (PE) by the Lokpal is made compulsory, the agency will lose the “surprise element” to carry out such operations.”
Officials said that at present a PE was conducted only when the available information or complaint about serious misconduct on the part of a public servant was not adequate to justify registration of a regular case.
“The mandatory provision of the PE is bound to delay the commencement of investigation process. The experience shows that there are a large number of cases in which the element of criminality is known right from the beginning. Holding the PE would add no value but rather help the accused by compromising witnesses and help in destroying evidence,” the sources said.
“In case it is decided to retain this provision, it would be desirable, if it is categorically stated that such mandatory PE will be done only in matters initiated by the Lokpal. This is also against the established jurisprudence on the subject, which provides the powers for taking the final decision after conclusion of investigation by the investigating agency and even the courts do not interfere with the process of investigation,'' the sources said.
They were of the view that normally all police reports filed by the agency were scrutinised by the courts which took a final call on them.
“This is also in contrast to the proposal to have a clear cut division between investigation and the prosecution. Instead it is proposed that the CBI may send periodical reports to the Lokpal about the stage and outcome of investigation in respect of the Lokpal referred matters,” the sources said.
They said that at present the power of taking the final decision after investigation was decentralised in the CBI as officers of and above the rank of SP to the Director, CBI, took decisions based on the rank of suspect public servants.
“Thousands of public servants are involved in the Prevention of Corruption Act cases investigated by the CBI every year. It would not be practically feasible for the Lokpal to take a decision in every case. Further, this would cause considerable delay in finalisation of the cases and commencement of trial in anti-corruption cases,” the sources said.