With investigations getting deeper into many scams of previous UPA governments and its leaders, the usual bogey of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) being misused by the NDA government has been used as a tool by the Congress Party. But, has CBI been misused? Or is it an attempt to attack the credibility of an institution only to make the investigations look like a farce? We examine it in this article.
Rahul Gandhi’s own admission of misuse of CBI
In 2009, Rahul Gandhi himself had confessed that CBI was misused by the governments. However, to play it safe, he had said that every government tended to push its own people into such agencies. But it is not difficult for anyone to understand as to how many parties other than Congress had formed governments in India, and that too with such a majority to be able to influence the CBI? There is no doubt that it is the Congress party which has remained in power for the maximum time since independence for many terms with overwhelming majority. So, did Rahul Gandhi himself confess that his party had misused the CBI?
CBI a caged parrot
In the backdrop of the Coal scam and 2G scam cases, political interference with the CBI had well increased during UPA era. In 2013, Supreme Court called the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) a “caged parrot” that “speaks in its master’s voice”. The Court had categorically noted government’s interference in the coal allocation probe report, saying “the heart of the report was changed on the suggestions of the government officials”. The apex court expressing its strong displeasure at government’s interference in Coalgate probe had declared that the law minister could ask for a report but could not interfere with the CBI probe.
CBI made to give clean chit to Bofors accused
Having seen a series of corruption cases of UPA government, it should not surprise Indians to know that Mr. Ottavio Quattrocchi, one of the main accused in Bofors scam and an Italian friend of Nehru-Gandhi family, got a clean chit from the CBI. The Economic Times had reported, “The 12-year-long Interpol red corner notice against Quattrocchi has been withdrawn by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).”
After UPA came to power in 2004, CBI unfroze the bank accounts of Mr. Ottavio Quattrocchi and his wife Maria in 2006. The Outlook Magazine in its detailed article had noted, “First, Q was allowed to leave the country and then, after the Congress-led UPA came back to power in 2004, the ground for a neat burial of the case, has been very effectively prepared with the law ministry and CBI doing all the necessary digging and shovelling dirt over it.”
The CBI was heavily manipulated in the early 1990s. Top level CBI officers in their conversation with The Sunday Gurdian said that under the enormous political pressure, CBI was made to water down fodder scam case report indicting Lalu Prasad Yadav and was also told not to press for extradition of Bhopal Gas tragedy accused Warren Anderson.
The Bhopal Gas tragedy happened in 1984 and it was Rajiv Gandhi government which had allegedly played a role in letting Warren Anderson go out of India. Mr Anderson never returned to face the trial, and as explained above, his extradition was not pursued much by the CBI under political pressure.
CBI transformed into a political tool
It was under Rajiv Gandhi government that the CBI was transformed into a political tool as per the India Today report.
For the first time that CBI was accused of shielding corruption was while handling the Bofors case. The blatant interference in the autonomy of the CBI was visible when the CBI director M.G. Katre was given an inexplicable extension for the second time blocking promotion of dozens of IPS officers in the organization. Mr. Katre was close to Rajiv Gandhi’s PMO. Nonetheless, while informing parliament about Bofors case, P. Chidambaram, then minister in Rajiv Gandhi government, changed the findings of the CBI. Even the case of illegal foreign accounts of Kamal Nath was shelved by the CBI.
Emergency period – The darkest hour for CBI
India Today in its report highlights, “The CBI’s darkest hour, like every other investigative agency in the country, coincided with the nineteen months of the Emergency. Along with the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), CBI’s vast investigative machinery was commandeered by former prime minister Indira Gandhi as her personal political army. A large portion of the blame for CBI’s dubious role during the Emergency was laid at the door of the director, D. Sen.”
During Shah Commission hearing, Sen had then admitted that CBI had virtually functioned at the verbal orders of Mrs Gandhi’s additional private secretary, R.K. Dhawan.
The Shah Commission’s interim report as quoted by India Today, found CBI, along with the IB and RAW guilty of being “misused for unworthy political purposes, to the detriment of citizen’s rights“.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi in last 5 years hasn’t been able to make any concrete claim about the misuse of CBI, except for making empty rhetoric. The best example of this rhetoric is the U-turn that Congress has taken on both the appointment and removal of CBI chief Alok Verma. It appeared as if Congress was merely opposing government’s move for the sake of opposing it.
Therefore, Congress’s rhetoric has its genesis in the brazen use of CBI by the Congress Party itself. They are still not able to come to terms with the fact that the institution can function without any political interference.