Not the first time CBI is investigating CBI. Remember Ranjit Sinha and AP Singh?

VandanaOct 23, 2018 | 16:01

Not the first time CBI is investigating CBI. Remember Ranjit Sinha and AP Singh?

There was great amusement on Twitter on October 23 as the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the so-called premier investigating agency, conducted searches at its own headquarters and arrested an investigating officer.

CBI sleuths arrested deputy superintendent of police Devender Kumar, the investigating officer of a CBI special investigation team (SIT) probing money-laundering charges against Hyderabad-based meat exporter Moin Qureshi.


The incident blew the lid off a simmering battle between two of the agency’s top officials — CBI director Alok Verma and special director Rakesh Asthana. Both men have alleged corruption against each other.

But this is not the first instance of the CBI investigating its own top officials.

In 2017, the agency had registered a corruption case against its former director Ranjit Sinha, on allegations of abusing his authority to scuttle inquiries, investigations and prosecutions in the coal block allocation cases.

Former CBI director Ranjit Sinha is accused of abusing his authority in the coal block allocation cases. (Source: India Today)

In 2017 itself, the CBI had registered a corruption case against its former director, AP Singh, and his alleged childhood friend Moin Qureshi, on charges of accepting money from his contacts apparently to seek favours from government servants holding key positions.

None of these investigations can be completed without the agency searching its own records and premises for crucial evidence.

Little progress seems to have been made in either case though. In January this year, the CBI's SIT informed the Supreme Court that substantial progress has been made in the probe against Sinha who apparently tried to scuttle the investigation in the coal scam cases. The SIT claims came after the Supreme Court expressed its displeasure over the tardy pace of the probe in the case.


Yet, the country is nowhere close to knowing if the men tasked with investigating cases of corruption misused their own offices for pecuniary gains.

The current mess is therefore neither surprising, nor shocking. If anything, it is only hilarious that an agency that came up to investigate important cases of crime and corruption is busy trying to figure out just how to root out corruption and the corrupt from its own ranks.

The volcano that has now erupted gave out all the signals that it could about the impending mayhem in 2017.

In October 2017, CBI director Alok Verma submitted a confidential letter to the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) alleging corruption against Rakesh Asthana and pleading that he should not be promoted to the special director’s post. The note alleged corruption on Asthana’s part in the Sterling Biotech case. It alleged that according to a diary found on the premises of the company, Asthana purportedly received a bribe of Rs 3.88 crore. The promotion was nevertheless cleared reportedly without even a basic inquiry into the allegations levelled.

The spars between the two top CBI officials continued. Asthana then alleged corruption on Verma’s part. Among the many allegations that Asthana levelled are charges that Verma went soft against Lalu Yadav in the cases pending against him and that he allegedly received a bribe of Rs 2 crore in the case against businessman Satish Sana and then delayed his team’s request to arrest the businessman.


It's CBI vs CBI: The CBI arrested an investigating officer and conducted searches at its own headquarters. (Source: India Today)

This circus is being run right from the CBI office that operates on public money.

The CBI is known to have always worked under the diktat of the incumbent government. It has been used as a tool by several regimes to given clean chits at whim, or, as legends go, to implicate rivals in order to settle political scores.

On more than one occasion, the agency has been reprimanded by the country’s courts for shoddy, tardy and lackadaisical investigations. But that is a topic for a separate piece. The point that needs questioning right now is, how can we allow the agency to investigate cases against its own highest officials, and then make a mess of it?

The way the Verma-Asthana saga has panned out so far clearly shows that there is a need for an overhaul and for outside intervention.

While most government departments carry out preliminary investigations at an internal level against their own officials, the problem with the CBI is that it has presented a very poor track record to enjoy more public trust.

From AP Singh to Ranjit Sinha to Rakesh Asthana to Alok Verma, all officials stand accused of receiving bribes in cases they were investigating. Coming from such senior officers, these cases are not just personal charges of corruption but have taken the shape of the corruption of an institution. If you can apparently pay to scuttle an investigation from India’s top agency, what are the chances of the country succeeding in nipping graft?

The CBI cannot be allowed to turn this episode into a brawl being telecast to the public straight from its headquarters.

We, the taxpayers, deserve better.

Only a Supreme Court-monitored investigation can now help instil confidence in the people that the CBI can be saved as an institution.

Last updated: October 23, 2018 | 16:01
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