Interview with Central Bureau of Investigation Director Ashwani Kumar

Central Bureau of Investigation Director Ashwani Kumar says the mandate of the investigating agency does not extend to dealing with corruption at the highest level and calls for the creation of an institution that could deal with political corruption. In an interaction with journalists at The Hindu in Chennai on Saturday, Mr. Kumar suggested that Parliament be persuaded to allow non-intrusive tests such as polygraph test and brain mapping, but not narco analysis. Edited excerpts of the interaction:

On the CBI's role in tackling corruption at the highest level.

The Prevention of Corruption Act, which the CBI has to implement, does not talk of political corruption. There is only one section which talks of election … election is defined in that. But none of the sections of the Act contains any penal or preventive provisions vis-à-vis election or political corruption.

The CBI cannot investigate any case against an officer of the rank of a Joint Secretary and above. So we have to limit our actions to Deputy Secretary and below. Why is there an expectation from me that I will tackle corruption at the highest level? My mandate is defined … Deputy Secretary and below.

The Lok Pal Bill which is supposed to tackle corruption at the political level was brought seven times but it was not created.

We have Lok Ayuktas now and the Karnataka model is very good. We have to create an institution that can tackle political corruption … Are the Judiciary, the Cabinet, the Election Commission, etc., going to tackle political corruption? The media can expose corruption but cannot remove it.

On the Supreme Court ruling on narco-analysis and polygraph tests.

It is laid down in the Constitution that we as a country have to develop a scientific temper. The polygraph test has been there since 1921. Forensic science has advanced. Are we going to go forward or backward? Are we going to look at the law only from the point of view of the accused? The accused have the most powerful lawyers to argue their case. What happens to the victim? A person whose daughter has been raped or a man whose son has been kidnapped ... Will they not plead with the police to adopt all measures to render justice? We have to take a balanced view. The courts have interpreted it from the point of view that a person cannot be compelled to incriminate himself.

Now, when forensic evidence is found in a scene of crime, can the suspect refuse to give sample of his hair or saliva for DNA test on the grounds that it would be self-incriminating? The courts are right … the Supreme Court is right in interpreting that narco-analysis is intrusive. I agree ... but polygraph and brain mapping are not intrusive.

How do you propose to surmount the challenge posed to investigating agencies by the Supreme Court verdict?

The verdict is a setback to forensic science. There are so many scientific aids to investigation. The court has commented only on three tests. I think Parliament can pass a law to permit it if they feel that way. Let us persuade Parliament. I am not saying this for the police … I am only arguing the case of the victim. It is the victims who suffer. We have to find the truth. It is high time the Parliament, public and press took it up. Because it is Parliament which has to make the law. The Supreme Court has interpreted vis-à-vis the existing constitutional provision. I respect the judgment but I would like to differ with regard to polygraph and brain mapping. I completely agree with the view on narco analysis.

What are your views on sting operations by the media?

If the intention is to increase the TRP ratings or to defame somebody, then it is not the correct way. In sting operations, I cannot file a charge sheet because there is no evidence as per law. I go by the law of evidence [The Indian Evidence Act], 1872. The IPC [Indian Penal Code] was made in 1860 and we still follow it.

For sting operations, we have to adopt some standards … Let us lay down some code. But will it be legally valid? Has any sting operation ended in conviction? There is a mismatch between your expectation and what is there on record.

We had many exposés in the media. I as an individual citizen would like all those cases to be punished. But as CBI Director I feel that there is no case, there is no evidence because I go by the law made in 1872. There is a mismatch between your expectations and what is on record.

What is the follow-up action taken by the CBI after sending the system improvement report?

No, we don't have the systems in place to follow it up. It is not our responsibility to follow it up. My responsibility is investigation. I submit the report. It is up to the department concerned to take action. We would like systemic improvement to take place.

In India, there is a perception that torture is widely resorted to by the police.

We are with the new legislation that is coming up to prevent torture. We also agree with the U.N. convention against torture and U.N. convention against corruption. Our laws have to be made simple. We are having too many laws in the Prevention of Corruption Act and not implementing one.

Torture is not being done by the police alone. What about the Maoists who are doing torture? Police is monitored by too many agencies like the human rights activists, media, public etc. I think we have to become modern. The police have to be world-class. The CBI has to be better than the Federal Bureau of Investigation … there is no question of the CBI being less than the FBI.

On the prevalence of corruption.

How many people are corrupt in this country? 90 per cent are honest and only 10 per cent are corrupt. We have lost the courage to punish them.

Do your people read crime fiction?

I watch this Crime Scene Investigation [CSI] programme. I think it is really good. We are going to say that every CBI officer must read new books on investigation. Unless we read new methods of investigation, how can we be a world-class organisation?

More In: Interview | Opinion