"This order is an attempt to release 'Caged Parrot':" Madras High Court asks Central govt to enact separate law to give 'statutory status' to CBI

The Court has called for a separate Act for the CBI, for the independent recruitment of CBI officials instead of depending on deputation and freeing the CBI from the administrative control of the government

The Madras High Court has issued a slew of directions in an attempt to improve the functioning of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and to put an end to its "caged parrot" status (Ramanathapuram District Pathikkapattor Sangam v. The State of Tamil Nadu).

The directions were passed by a Bench Justices N Kirubakaran and B Pugalendhi, which expressed concern that the CBI is prone to drag its feet despite demands for CBI inquiries in several sensitive cases.

"This order is an attempt to release the "Caged Parrot" (CBI)," the Court said.

Among other directions, the Court directed the Central government to enact a separate law at the earliest to give statutory status to CBI.

Currently, the CBI derives its powers from the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act of 1946 and the validity of CBI itself is under challenge before the Supreme Court.

"The independence of CBI is necessary for an impartial, neutral, credible investigation of the cases investigated by it. The Hon'ble Supreme Court in Hawala case viz., Vineet Narayanan Vs. Union of India, observed that “CBI” is a caged parrot speaking in its master's voice. The said observation of the Hon'ble Supreme Court is fortified by the statement made by the CBI Director before the Hon'ble Supreme Court in Coal allocation case that a former Law Minister meddled with the statement of CBI filed before the Hon'ble Supreme Court," the Madras High has recounted in its order.

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The Court noted that the demand for CBI inquiries in sensitive and heinous crimes is increasing by the day owing to the credibility and reverence attached to the investigating agency.

"When such is the trust and faith of the people, very sadly CBI is dragging its feet, whenever there is a demand for CBI enquiry on the ground that resources and man power available with CBI are very restricted and therefore, it cannot conduct investigations. This is the usual stereotype version/ defence of the CBI before the Courts," the Court went on to observe.

It was noted that this issue was also "parroted" in a case before the Court, which involved a nearly Rs 300 crore chit fund scam in which a company named Bullion Fintech LLP was an accused party.

Whereas the Court declined to transfer the case to the CBI earlier, given that an investigation by the Economics Wing was already underway, the Court decided to examine larger issues concerning the "necessity to have more resources and more personnel including modern infrastructures for CBI."

Justices N Kirubakaran and B Pugalendhi, Madras High Court
Justices N Kirubakaran and B Pugalendhi, Madras High Court

Fifteen queries were raised in the Court's earlier order regarding the resources, man power, investigating skills and infrastructural facilities available with the CBI.

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Having received the CBI's response on these queries, the Court proceeded to issue the following directions in the interest of the CBI and the public.

1. The Government of India is directed to consider and take a decision for the enactment of a separate Act giving statutory status with more powers and jurisdiction to CBI at the earliest. The Court observed that it is only when the CBI is given a statutory status, "the autonomy of CBI would be ensured."

2. The CBI shall be made more independent like Election Commission of India and Comptroller and Auditor General of India.

3. A separate budgetary allocation shall be made for CBI.

4. The Director of 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 direction was issued in view of the concern that the CBI lacks sufficient financial and administrative powers.

5. The Central government shall make CBI independent with functional autonomy without administrative control of the government.

6. The Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) shall have more modern facilities and should be augmented on par with the facilities available to Federal Bureau of Investigation in United States of America and Scotland Yard in United Kingdom.

7. The DoPT is directed to pass orders on the CBI restructuring letter dated September 9, 2020 (for comprehensive cadre review, restructuring of CBI, and for creation of 734 additional posts in different ranks) after consulting with other departments if necessary, within a period of six weeks from the date of receipt of a copy of this order.

8. The CBI should file a well-thought out policy within a period of six weeks from the date of receipt of a copy of this order, for permanently recruiting (i) Cyber Forensic experts and (ii) Financial Audit experts, so that all the branches/wings of CBI should have these experts available with them and not on case to case basis.

9. The DoPT should clear all the pending proposals pertaining to CBI's infrastructure development e.g. land construction, residential accommodation, upgradation of available technical gadgets etc., within a period of six weeks.

10. CFSL attached to CBI should clear all the pending cases as on December 31, 2020. Similarly, other FSLs should also offer their Forensic opinion pending as on December 31, 2020 within a period of six weeks from the date of receipt of a copy of this order. The directions issued in respect of CFSL were passed in view of the CBI's submission that a reason for the long pendency of cases is due to the huge pendency in CFSL, which results in delays in receiving the opinion of experts on forensic examination of exhibits. In its order, the Court also urged the Centre to establish at least one CFSL in each zone of the country (South, North, East, West) within a year.

11. The details of cases wherein charges have not been framed by trial courts despite the charge sheets having been filed by CBI for more than one year, should be shared by Director, CBI with the respective Registrar Generals of the High Courts.

12. Since the CBI itself has stated in a reply that CBI has to work within the constraints of shortage of manpower, Director, CBI should send another detailed proposal seeking a further increase in the divisions/wings, as well as strength of Officers in CBI to the Government of India, within a period of six weeks from the date of receipt of a copy of this order. The government of India should pass orders on the same within a period of three months of its receipt.

In the course of its order, the Court also empahsised that officials and staff of the CBI should be independently recruited and given proper training at the CBI Academy, as well as in foreign countries, if necessary.

Experts in cyber laws, Chartered Accountants and other experts should be recruited instead of getting them on deputation, the Court added. It should have a dedicated cadre of officers on its own without getting officials on deputation, the Court further observed.

"It is also stated that the officers inducted in CBI (are by way of) on deputation from State police and CPOs with fixed tenure and it is also one of the constraints of the CBI. Hence, there is a necessity for inducting and recruiting their own officials, instead of depending upon deputation from Police force and other forces. Therefore, in this regard the CBI shall send a comprehensive proposal to the Central Government for approval", the Court said.

Whereas the conviction rate in cases probed by the CBI was more than 60% as per its data, the Bench said that this too should be enhanced by making more resources available to the agency.

The matter is slated to be taken up again after six weeks "for filing compliance report or for appearance of the Director, Central Bureau of Investigation, New Delhi."

[Read Order]

Ramanathapuram District Pathikkapattor Sangam v. The State of Tamil Nadu.pdf
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