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CBI has long history of listening to its political master’s voice
ABHINANDAN MISHRA  New Delhi | 27th Nov 2011

The Central Bureau of Investigation, which was once considered an unbiased probing agency, has lost its sheen because of political interference, feel former CBI officers.

Joginder Singh, who headed the agency for 11 months in 1996 and monitored several high-profile cases including Bofors, St. Kitts, Hawala scam, JMM payoff and fodder scam, told The Sunday Guardian that political interference was something that the CBI was always exposed to. "Interferences do not come as plain instructions. Many times hindrances are created by vested agencies so that the investigation is affected, which ultimately leads to the weakening of the case," Singh said. He added that it's not always the CBI which weakens a case. Sometimes even other government agencies ensure that investigations are scuttled. But ultimately it is the CBI that faces public criticism, he said.

Former CBI joint director B.R. Lall, who was handling the Bhopal gas tragedy case from April 1994 to July 1995, said that he was told not to press for the extradition of Warren Anderson. “All the directors under whom I served were honest and upright officers, but when they were told something by the Prime Minister, they would suddenly become helpless.”

Singh believes that the CBI has performed every time it has been given a free hand. He gave the example of the recent 2G scam and the Commonwealth Games scam in which all the arrested were from the ruling UPA alliance.

N.K. Singh, former joint director of the CBI, who arrested Indira Gandhi in 1977, feels that CBI faces political interferences at every level. He said that the politicisation of the agency became public when D. Sen was given two extensions by Indira Gandhi and stayed on as the CBI director for six years between 1971 and 1976. Later, the Shah Commission, which was constituted to look into Emergency excesses, severely criticised D. Sen for abusing his power and authority.

N.K. Singh said there was enormous political pressure on the CBI during the fodder scam, which led to the watering down of the original report prepared by Joint Director U.N. Biswas indicting Lalu Prasad Yadav. The report was substituted with a less damaging report. The interference did not go unnoticed and the Patna High Court expressed its dismay on the turn of events in a strongly worded observation.

A former Union Minister of State for Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), who handled the CBI, recalled, "Yes, the CBI director used to consult me on some important cases. There were occasions when political bosses did not exert pressure to withdraw the case, but the pressure used to come from top CBI officials who were too eager on arresting the VIP offenders." He admitted that he had to accede to the CBI officials' demand as otherwise they would start spreading the word that certain people were not arrested because of interference by top leaders. Some of the top officers did not spare even the Prime Minister. This former minister was attached with the Prime Minister's Office. He added that the CBI continues to be a top agency in probing criminal and economic offences and has an impressive success rate in high-profile cases.

ormer CBI joint director B.R. Lall told this newspaper that political interference happens at the level of the director and the pressure is exerted from the level of the PMO downward. The "junior" officers in turn are told to prepare a weak case.

Lall, who was handling the Bhopal gas tragedy case from April 1994 to July 1995, said that he was told not to press for the extradition of Warren Anderson. "All the directors under whom I served were honest and upright officers, but when they were told something by the Prime Minister, they would suddenly become helpless."

Another official of the rank of SP, who retired from the CBI on 31 October after serving the agency for 35 years, said, "In my career I did not receive any directions about letting off a criminal, but I was definitely guided on the route of investigation to be pursued. General advice from the seniors, such as not to administer third degree torture on VIPs during interrogation, was given."Image 2nd

N.K. Singh talked about the cumbersome process that the CBI has to go through before even starting its investigation or seeking permission to prosecute an accused — something which even Joginder Singh admitted. The latter cited the case of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati as an example in which the CBI is used as an intimidating agency for electoral compulsions.

Joginder Singh also spoke about the ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) spy ring case where the then Kerala Chief Minister E.K. Nayanar approached him through Home Minister Indrajit Gupta and told him to follow a particular line. The CBI found that the scientist who was being accused of spying was innocent and gave him a clean chit. On hearing this, the Kerala CM put pressure on Singh to change his findings, which the latter refused.Image 3rd

Joginder Singh further told this newspaper that he was asked by then Prime Minister I.K. Gujral to go soft on Bihar Chief Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav, who was under tremendous pressure because of the fodder scam. However, Singh refused and asked for the said instruction in writing, which never came. Singh recalled approaching the incumbent Home Minister Indrajit Gupta, who advised him to act in a way which would save his own "skin and save the skin of the department".

After this incident I.K. Gujral made sure that Joginder Singh was transferred. "They were not happy with me for obvious reasons," Singh said. His transfer led to a lot of hue and cry and cases were filed in Patna and Delhi High Courts against his sudden removal. Subsequently, the court gave the verdict that a CBI director could not be transferred before completing two years of service.

Singh feels that until the CBI is given Constitutional status, functional autonomy and unless its director is fully empowered to take decisions, the agency will not be able to justify the responsibility for which it was created.

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