Just about a month after the Supreme Court shifted the Vyapam probe to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the premier investigating agency on Friday continued to express apprehensions about taking over the “complicated” task.
The CBI said it was faced with severe manpower crisis and a work overload of 1,237 pending cases, besides the possibility of being cold-shouldered by the Vyapam Special Task Force (STF) and Special Investigation Team (SIT) from which the cases have got transferred to it.
But a three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice H.L. Dattu was in no mood to give the CBI any quarter, and insisted that it take over the assignment and complete the job.
“Whether it is simple, complicated, complex, super-complex... we don't know, but you will take over. You cannot say that some cases the STF will continue to do, some others the SIT will do and some the CBI will do. You cannot make these excuses,” Chief Justice Dattu told Solicitor-General Ranjit Kumar, who appeared for the CBI.
Mr. Kumar submitted that prosecution in certain cases were already underway and the STF, which was the prosecuting agency before the trial court, may not co-operate if the CBI takes over these cases mid-way.
“If the STF does not co-operate, we will be in a predicament. They have already started the prosecution,” Mr. Kumar said.
To this, Justice Dattu responded that the apex court would make it clear that the STF should co-operate with the CBI whatever the stage of a particular case may be.
“We now direct the CBI to take over 72 cases in different stages within three weeks from today. The STF/SIT/State Police of Madhya Pradesh will co-operate with the CBI whenever the request is made,” the Bench directed.
Mr. Kumar then complained that the CBI is facing over 750 vacancies. He said there 1,237 cases pending with the CBI as of today.
“And not all these 1237 cases are single, individual ones. Each of these would be several cases clubbed together with field of action spread across many States. We lack manpower,” he submitted.
“If you start giving excuses like this, saying you have no manpower, we will ask you for a status report every 15 days. The Attorney-General has already given us an assurance that the manpower issue will be resolved,” Justice Dattu responded.
To this, Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi, who also represents Madhya Pradesh government in the case, said that 1000 additional posts have been proposed and they would be “ready” in a month.
It was then Justice Dattu asked the Centre's two top law officers whether personnel recruited from State police services change their character for the better after joining the CBI, and why there are so many vacancies lying unfilled.
“The lower cadre in the State Police do not want to join unlike the IPS officers, who would like a posting in Delhi. For the local police officer his police station is his fiefdom, he would not like to leave that and come to Delhi,” Mr. Rohatgi conveyed to the court.
Mr. Kumar said the CBI is in the process of appointing 48 prosecutors to be fielded in 24 courts trying the Vyapam cases. He submitted that out of 48, 19 have been appointed, and a further three weeks would be required to complete the process.
The court scheduled the case for October 9 for the CBI to file a status report on its investigations into the cases.