The Central Bureau of Investigation should be an autonomous body reporting only to parliament, the Madras High Court said on Tuesday. Batting for the autonomy and independence of the central agency, which according to the opposition has become a political tool in the hands of the BJP-led Central government, the court said: “The CBI should have autonomy as that of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, who is only accountable to Parliament”.
In its 12-point instructions overhauling the current system, the court said, “This order is an attempt to release the “Caged Parrot (CBI)”.
A “caged parrot” was how the Supreme Court had described the agency during a hearing of the Coalfield allocation cases in 2013. That time, the BJP, which was in the opposition, accused the agency of being controlled by the Congress-led government.
Over the last years, with the agency pressing ahead with investigations against a multitude of opposition leaders, the agency has been accused of catering to BJP demands. Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee has been particularly sharp, calling it the “Conspiracy Bureau of Investigation controlled by the Prime Minister”.
Observing that the autonomy of the agency will be ensured only when it is given statutory status, the court said, “The Government of India is directed to consider and take a decision for enactment of a separate Act giving statutory status with more powers and jurisdiction to CBI at the earliest… the Central Government shall make CBI independent with functional autonomy without administrative control of the Government”.
Formed in 1941, the agency reports to the DoPT (the Department of Personnel and Training) under the Prime Minister’s Office. Its director is chosen by a three-member panel comprising the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice of India and the Leader of the Opposition.
Earlier on Tuesday, hearing a plea seeking a CBI probe into an alleged ponzi scam in Tamil Nadu to the tune of Rs 300 crore, Justices N Kirubakaran and Justice B Pugalendhi in their judgment said, “The CBI shall be made more independent like Election Commission of India and Comptroller and Auditor General of India.”
“The Director of the CBI shall be given powers as that of the Secretary to the Government and shall directly report to the Minister/Prime Minister without going through DoPT,” the judgment further read.
Responding to the Centre’s opposition to the transfer of the ponzi scam case on grounds of its lack of manpower, the judges ordered the Centre to “take a decision on the comprehensive proposal for cadre review and restructuring of CBI within a period of one month.”
“Facilities for the premier agency have to be enhanced, so that it could be equated, with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of United States of America and Scotland Yard of United Kingdom,” the judges said, demanding separate budgetary allocation for the agency.