By Vijay Darda
Regardless of how many times allegations have been made that political parties use CBI in their own right, the reality is that when the police can not solve any issue, then the demand is made that the matter should be handed over to the CBI! It means that the people have an unwavering faith in the CBI. It is also believed that the points of investigation that the police investigation may miss can be found out by CBI. But the current situation has brought CBI to a crisis. There has been a serious question mark on its credibility. Who is guilty and who is tainted, is a matter that has come under a scanner.
There is nothing new about the tug of war in the government departments, but when it comes to the country’s highest investigative agency, it is natural for the country to be worried. Surprisingly, the government’s role in making this issue more serious is also suspect. In 2016, the then CBI Director Anil Sinha was due to retire. After him, R.K. Dutta was to succeed him according to seniority. However, two days before Sinha was to retire, Dutta was transferred to the Home Ministry. After this, the government appointed Rakesh Asthana of Gujarat cadre as the Interim Director of CBI. Advocate Prashant Bhushan went to the Supreme Court against this anomaly.
It is pertinent to note that the CBI Director is selected by the Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition and Chief Justice of India. Alok Verma became the CBI director in February 2017 with the consensus of the three. Alok Verma protested in October 2017 when the Selection Committee headed by the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) promoted Asthana as Special Director. He had said that there are many serious allegations against Asthana. He is under investigation so he should not be in the CBI. Verma also presented a confidential report to the selection committee, which included several names in the case of taking bribes from Gujarat company Sterling Biotech. Asthana’s name also figured in the list. The CVC dismissed Verma’s objection. Asthana was promoted. After that a turf war broke out in the CBI.
The matter took an ugly turn when the CBI filed an FIR against Rakesh Asthana, its own number two officer in a bribery case. He was charged with taking a bribe of Rs 2 crore in one case. One of his associates DSP Devender was also arrested in this case. After this, Asthana not only charged Verma for taking Rs 3 crores but also filed several complaints in the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC). When the skirmishes began to blow into full-scale war between bureaucrats, the government suddenly sent Verma and Asthana on leave!
Naturally the opposition reacted aggressively! Congress president Rahul Gandhi even alleged that Verma was removed as he was trying to go to the bottom of the Rafale case. Well, it is a matter of allegation; the basic issue is how can the CBI director be sent on leave at midnight without taking into confidence the people who have a role in the selection of the CBI director. Regardless of the government’s intentions that since the two are fighting each other openly it was tainting the image of the CBI and hence it would be prudent to send them on leave! But the way the entire drama has unfolded, it has created doubts in the mind of the common man. Verma was asked to proceed on leave on WhatsApp. His office was searched. The sleuths of Intelligence Bureau were deployed outside his home. Did not this affect the image of the hallowed institution?
There is no doubt that the dignity of the CBI has been dented by the entire issue and the faith of the common man in the system has been shaken. Faith in democracy is the biggest aspect. We trust our leaders and that is why we vote for them and send them as our representative for governance. Their responsibility is to ensure that different departments work in a transparent manner. If there is no transparency then the common man will not believe in the system. This is a dangerous sign for democracy. And yes, if the opposition accuses the government of trying to influence the functioning of any investigating agency for its interests then this becomes a critical issue. It calls for caution.
Vijay Darda has been the chief visionary and driving force behind Lokmat, a leading multi-platform media company. He is a recipient of several prestigious awards including the Feroze Gandhi Memorial Award for excellence in journalism in 1990-91.
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