A makeover for CBI
Mains Paper 2: Governance
Prelims level: CBI
Mains level: Government CBI policies and interventions for development in
various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) owes its
origin to the Special Police Establishment (SPE), which was established by
the colonial government in 1941 through an executive order to deal with
corruption involving war-time purchases and supplies
In 1946, the then government enacted the Delhi Special
Police Establishment Act to give the organisation a statutory cover.
Act of 1946
The Act of 1946, which continues to govern the CBI, is
a very small piece of legislation, comprising six sections.
It permits the agency to investigate only those offences
which are notified by the central government.
The organisation cannot exercise its powers and
jurisdiction in any area in a state without the consent of the government of
Without the state government’s invitation, the only way
the CBI can work there is when the Supreme Court or some high court asks it to
The Act vests the superintendence of the CBI in the
central government, though, now it vests partly in the Central Vigilance
Commission (CVC), too.
This amendment in the provision about the superintendence
over the agency, including the one about the procedure for appointment of its
director, was introduced by the CVC Act, 2003.
Present position of CBI
The CBI figures in the Union List of the Seventh
Schedule of the constitution of India.
Sl. No. 8 of this List reads: “Central Bureau of
Intelligence and Investigation.” Considering the importance that the framers of
the Constitution had attached to this organization.
Still its working is still governed by an antiquated piece
of legislation enacted during British rule, for a somewhat limited purpose.
India is no longer the country of 1946 and CBI is no
longer what the Delhi Special Police Establishment was in those days.
The size of the organisation has expanded, the pattern and
incidence of crime which it is required to investigate have altered, its charter
of functions has enlarged considerably, the political environment in which it is
functioning has been transformed, citizens’ expectations from this agency have
grown, and the norms and standards of police investigation work all over the
world have seen a sea change.
Why legislation so important ?
The legislation governing an important organisation
like the CBI must reflect these developments.
It must recognise the paramount obligation of the
organisation to function according to the requirements of the constitution.
It must mandate them to function to protect and promote
the rule of law.
Legislation must define the word “superintendence”, and
establish institutional and other arrangements to insulate the organisation from
undesirable and illegitimate external control, pressures and influences.
It must ensure that the central government’s control over
the agency is so exercised as to ensure that its performance is in strict
accordance with the law.
The Act must make it a statutory responsibility of the
government to establish an efficient and impartial system of investigation.
It should set objectives, define performance standards and
establish monitoring instrument, prescribe procedures for appointment and
removal of officers.
It delineate the CBI’s powers as well as functions,
outline the philosophy and practices expected of the agency, and, prescribe
mechanisms to ensure their accountability.
There should be no provision that can be used to provide
Enactment of law
The Government of India has been stubbornly resisting
the demand for a separate enactment of law for the CBI.
In its Thirty Seventh Report, the Department Related
Standing Committee on Action Taken Replies of the government felt that
sufficient thought had not been given to the recommendations of the committee
with regards to strengthening the CBI in terms of the legal mandate.
The Committee notes that the Ministry, in its reply, has
admitted that the functions and operations of the CBI have been enlarged.
The Committee fails to understand how such a premier
organisation can function efficiently and to its full potential, when it is
lacking in terms of legal backing.
Despite being established in April 1963, the CBI is
being regulated by a law that is as anachronistic as the Police Act of 1861,
which has governed police forces in the country.
The state governments have shown reluctance to accept the
National Police Commission’s recommendations to replace the colonial-era
legislation with a new Police Act that is framed in accordance with the
requirements of a modern democratic Constitution.
The Centre has been obstinate in refusing the need for a
new law to manage and strengthen the CBI.
The reason for this unwillingness to change, in both
cases, is the same the political executive must exercise superintendence over
the police organisations, so that they can misuse them for illegitimate and
Q.1) Consider the following statements with respect to the Central Bureau of
1. It was established under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
2. It is an attached office under Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and
3. Both Centre and State governments have concurrent control over CBI.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 2 only
(c) 1 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3
Q.1) The CBI plays a pivotal role in the criminal justice delivery but is often
marred with a myriad of responsibilities. Comment while suggesting reforms to