A democracy is just as credible as the strength of the institutions fundamental to its legitimacy. Assess the role of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in this context.

A democracy is just as credible as the strength of the institutions fundamental to its legitimacy. Assess the role of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in this context.


Based on the recommendations of the Santhanam Committee on Prevention of Corruption, CBI was established by a resolution of the Ministry of Home Affairs in 1963. CBI is not a statutory body. It derives its powers from the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946. It works under the overall superintendence of Central Vigilance Commission in matters related to the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.

  1. Financial Discipline: Investigating cases relating to infringement of fiscal and economic laws, that is, breach of laws concerning export and import control, customs and central excise, income tax, foreign exchange regulations.
  2. Administrative Discipline: Investigating cases of corruption, bribery and misconduct of Central government employees.
  3. Special Crimes: Investigating serious crimes, having national and international ramifications, committed by organized gangs of professional criminals.
  4. Taking up, on the request of a state government, any case of public importance for investigation.
  5. Maintaining crime statistics and disseminating criminal information.
1. Administrative Autonomy

a. CBI is not entrusted with taking up suo-moto cases and instead the government directs the agency upon which cases need to be investigated.

b. Since it acts as per CrPC, it depends on state governments for invoking authority to investigate cases.

c. It depends on the Ministry of Law for appointing public prosecutors in its cases.

d. It entirely relies on the Ministry of Home Affairs for providing human resource like staff, IPS officers, etc.

2. Financial Autonomy

CBI has to rely on DoPT approval even for basic administrative issues and expenses.

3. Corruption charges

Top CBI officials including the director have been time and again accused of corruption charges.

Example: Cases against CBI director in coal block allocation case shows that CBI itself isn’t insulated from corruption.

4. Short tenure

Currently, CBI director enjoys only two-year tenure. Frequent changes in leadership prevents the effective functioning of CBI.

  • A comprehensive act (CBI Act) by Parliament for setting out the autonomy, powers.
  • Lokpal Act already calls for a three-member committee made up of the prime minister, the leader of the opposition and the chief justice of the Supreme Court to select the director. However, not enough has been done to administratively protect CBI from political interference. For this to happen, the new Act must specify criminal culpability for government interference.
  • It should be made only accountable to Parliament like CAG.

The SC raised questions on the CBI’s independence while hearing the Coalgate scam case and called it a “caged parrot speaking in its master’s voice”. It’s time to liberate the bird by providing Financial Autonomy, Administrative Independence and Security of tenure as per recommendations made by L.P. Singh committee in the past.

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