Wednesday, February 1, 2023
HomeEditorialIndependent agency should not be headed by a single person

Independent agency should not be headed by a single person

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Taking a new stand, Supreme Court ordered the disclosure of the identity of the whistleblower to the court before it takes a call on proceedings regarding the controversial visitors’ logbook at CBI director Ranjit Sinha’s Delhi residence. A bench led by Justice H L Dattu told advocate Prashant Bhushan, who represented the applicant NGO CPIL, that he must first tell the court who leaked the contentious entry register at Sinha’s house. The court said that it was necessary since CPIL affidavit asking the court to pass orders against Sinha was not in compliance with the SC Rules without disclosing the source of information. Meanwhile, Sinha’s counsel Vikas Singh disputed the authenticity of the logbook and claimed 90 per cent of the entries were fudged.

Bhushan had handed over in the court the original entry register of Sinha’s residence, claiming two unidentified persons had visited him and gave him the document. He argued that Bhushan is legally bound to reveal the source of the diary; the Supreme Court then asked Bhushan to reveal the “name of the whistle blower who had access to entries of cars and people at the CBI chief’s house” in a sealed cover. CBI director Sinha has been accused of compromising investigations into some of the country’s biggest financial scams by meeting the accused at his home. Sinha accepted that some entries in the diary may be genuine, but it is forged. It is only legitimate that Prashant Bhushan reveals the source of his information and from where he got the records. Anyway, Sinha has right to put forth his view in front of the court. Bhushan should disclose his source of information. Lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan told the Supreme Court that he was willing to “stake his life” on the authenticity of a list of visitors to CBI chief Ranjit Sinha’s home that he submitted earlier this month.

On September 8, the court had asked the agency chief to reply to the “very serious” averments against him regarding a visitors’ logbook at his Delhi residence, which showed frequent visits by some of the accused in the 2G and coal block cases among others. It had asked him to file two separate affidavits — one on the merits as to why he should not be removed from the 2G cases besides initiating an inquiry against him, and second, on the maintainability of the application by NGO CPIL, a petitioner in the 2G case, which has sought actions against him in view of damning disclosures by the visitors’ logbook.

The court added, “Once we realise there is some hanky panky, we will certainly go for it. If the court feels an investigation is needed, it will do it, but before that we have to satisfy ourselves.” Sinha has filed affidavits refuting the allegations. Bhushan, who is a member of the Aam Aadmi Party, has accused Mr. Sinha of trying to protect some of the powerful people accused of having links to the scandals. Sources close to Sinha say that he has stressed that contrary to what Bhushan has alleged, he overruled his team to make the case stronger against some of the accused. CBI should be autonomous where it is concerned with initiation of inquiry, investigation and filing of charge sheet. The interference of any kind in these by the executive will result in deterioration of institutional ethics and misuse of institution itself. CBI attracts most competent officers of our country and the political interference in its functioning will definitely erode their morale and inculcate a culture of inaction and inefficiency which would be a huge setback for the nation as a whole. No independent agency in the government is headed by a single person. Indeed, time has come to make it a multimember body including officers from other enforcement agencies.

The CBI body should decide by majority like CVC. The CBI body should have officers from IPS, IRS and other enforcement agencies so that the complicated economic crimes can be better tackled rather than police personnel alone. Time has come to revamp it so that all enforcement agencies should be part of CBI. Crime by politicians and big corporate houses are investigated by CBI but its logical conclusion and the poor conviction rate shows the nexus between corporate houses, political power as well as the CBI. From Lalu Yadav to Jagan Mohan Reddy and innumerable big wigs in between, one common theme is the delay. Justice delayed is justice denied and that is what people experience day in and day out. Collecting and presenting evidence to convince courts to hand down punishment is usually a stop-start process, with investigating officers transferred in the middle and many other means employed which do not make news.

With passage of time, the interest and relevance of the case get lost and eventually the criminals get clean chit after 20 years. A truly independent investigating agency whose operations not get tempered by politicians is the need of the hour. As arrest and prosecution are in themselves ‘punishment’, it would be better to have an additional accountability mechanism (besides the judiciary) in the form of an independent prosecution directorate to check possible misuse by the CBI. Even many officers posted in their native states and home cadres in CBI, act in a parochial manner in harassing the other officers who risked their lives in saving the lives of citizens. Officers should not be posted in their home states. How they have been allowed to act in such a brazen manner? Can CBI tell how many officers are posted in home states and why? Anyway, now we have to see how Bhushan will prove and reveal the source and if he proves, then what action court will take against Sinha?

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Vaidehi Taman
Vaidehi Taman
Vaidehi an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with three Honourary Doctorate in Journalism. Vaidehi has been an active journalist for past 16 years, and is also the founding editor of an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, monthly magazine Beyond The News, and The Democracy digital video news portal is her brain child. She is an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, OSCP offensive securities, Certified Security Analyst and Licensed Penetration Tester that caters to her freelance jobs. Besides journalism, she is also an Ethical Hacker, Philanthropist, and Author.
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