The Supreme Court observed, on 30th April,, 2013, about what has come to be known as Coal Gate, that the “intrusion” by Law Minister and officials of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the Coal Ministry into the CBI probe into the coal allocation scam “has shaken the entire process” and asked CBI director to give all details in this regard within a week.
Supreme Court also asked the CBI director to state as to whether any changes were made in the March 8, 2013, CBI status report on its investigations after it was shared with them at their instance and if so the extent of changes and at whose instance.
The Bench also wanted to know the identities, of the joint secretaries in the PMO and the Coal Ministry who had sought the status report and as to whether the report was shared with any other person/s.
“If there is intrusion from various angles – left, right, above and below – how does the investigation progress independently.” It added that CBI should not only be independent, but also seen to be independent and impartial.
“A question mark has been put on the impartiality and independence of the investigation. This has to be cleared before the CBI moves further” in the case, the Bench remarked and made it clear that its first priority now would be to “liberate” the probe agency from “extraneous influence and intrusion.”
It was strange that the Coal Ministry wanted to have a look at the CBI status report before its submission to the SC, but was not providing details to the agency as to who were screening the applications for coal blocks and their reports, the Bench said.
After the CBI had filed its status report in the court and assured through Additional Solicitor General Harin Raval that it was not shared with the political masters, the Bench had asked the CBI Director to file an affidavit to this effect. ( Mr. Rawal Changed his stand and admitted that it had been shared with the Law Minister, where Attorney General and two Joint Secretaries were present.)
In his affidavit, filed on April 26, the director CBI, said the report was shared with Kumar and two joint secretaries – one each at the PMO and the Coal Ministry. During arguments today, the Bench indicated that it was not in favour of appointing any outside agency to monitor the CBI probe, observing that this would amount to tampering with the very sanctity of the investigation. However, it said it was not averse to asking Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) to ensure that the CBI probe was fair and free from political interference.
The observations of the Supreme Court are most welcome in “ liberating the CBI from extraneous influences and intrusion”. The fact remains that that there is no such thing in Law as CBI, as it legal name is Special Police Establishment. The name CBI was given to it by the Government by an Executive Order dated 1st April, 1963. Whenever a case is registered or charge sheeted, the concerned officer signs it as an SPE officer. The same laws relating to Police ACT, Indian Penal Code, Indian Evidence Act, and Criminal Procedure Codes, passed by the British in 1861 and 1863 Govern the working of the State Police And CBI. Those laws give unfettered power of supervision and direction to the Government.
The only change now is that the Superintendence of the Corruption cases has been given to Central Vigilance Commission and for the rest of the cases to the Government. When a case is being monitored by the Apex Court, it was unethical, if not exactly illegal, for the Government Ministers, to see what is in the report. It is for the simple reason, that the main accusations related to the Coal Ministry and obviously the CBI should not have been pressurized to show the report and suggest changes. It was done, because CBI is a wing of the Government and is not an Independent Body or Constitutional Body like the Election Commission or CAG.
Even otherwise, CBI is so structured that it has to depend upon the Government to fill up its vacancies. According to a recent report CBI is facing acute shortage of manpower as over 900 posts of executive officers, including that of , joint directors and DIGs, are lying vacant for many years. According to CBI data, out of the 4,490 sanctioned posts at executive officers level, about 3,575 are filled.
Among the 915 vacancies, 211 are at the sub-inspector level. The agency also needs 199 inspectors, 177 constables, 97 deputy superintendents of police and 96 head constables.
Other than these, the agency requires 35 superintendents of police, 10 deputy inspectors general of police, four senior superintendents of police, two special directors/additional directors and two joint directors. There are 82 other vacant posts in the category.
A total of 149 posts of law officer, including additional legal adviser, deputy legal adviser, senior public prosecutor, out of the sanctioned strength of 302 are vacant in the agency, the data said.
There are 101 vacant posts of technical staff, comprising senior advisers for banking, taxation, foreign exchange among others, which exist in the CBI against sanctioned manpower of 155, the document said.
In fact, nobody wants to strengthen CBI, as it is dependent upon the Government for getting the manpower either on deputation, or recruitment, or even on contract basis, despite the CBI having in its lap cases like 2G scam, Commonwealth Games irregularities (CWG scam) and a substantial number of cases referred to it by the Constitutional Courts and the State Governments. It is still not too late for the political bosses to give it a Constitutional Status, so that its credibility, which has been eroded by the Government interference. It should be freed from the shackles of asking sanction of everything, from the Government, whether it is hiring a good advocate, or sending letters of rogatories. It might appear as hoping against hope, that it is over due to give independence to CBI, as observed by the Supreme Court.