An agency whose job is to gather intelligence, which has the power to prosecute senior bureaucrats without central government’s permission and represents India at the Interpol has been turned into a circus.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which was respected and feared, is now making headlines in a very public and undignified spat. For the first time the agency’s chief has been sacked twice. An event preceded by many other firsts such as a midnight order by the government asking divesting the two topmost CBI officials – Director Alok Verma and Special Director Rakesh Asthana- of their powers and sending them on forced leave.
Between October, when the CBI filed an FIR against its own Special Director and Jan 11, Alok Verma was forced to go on leave, reinstated as CBI chief and then sacked. Nageshwar Rao took over as interim chief, was asked to step down and then took over as the interim chief. Thirteen officers were transferred out and after less than three months their transfer order was cancelled. Moreover, in the last forty-eight hours five more officials were transferred and then called back.
To make matters more complex and public Asthana’s is fighting a case is in the Delhi High Court and CVC is conducting a probe into the Verma’s conduct.
It is indeed a confounding mess, similar to a circus which does not have a ring master. For an agency, which has highly sensitive cases to probe, this puts all investigations in jeopardy.
It erodes the credibility of CBI not only domestically but internationally – especially when agencies like Interpol interface with different officials in a short span – obstructs continuity of investigation and dialogue.
As a premier autonomous institution which conducts anti-corruption investigations, outside the purview of RTI, the CBI now has an uphill task of building its reputation. Notwithstanding the reason and motivation for the spat or the sacking, the agency must win back its dignity and integrity.