Tuesday, December 1, 2020

States withdrawing general consent to CBI - smacks of politics and fear !!

Deputy Superintendent Sethurama Iyer CBI is a brilliant Investigative officer of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the Indian equivalent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Iyer's popularity is attributed to the fact that he uses his brain rather than brawn to solve cases.  

During the period of World War II, a Special Police Establishment (SPE) was constituted in 1941 in the Department of War of the British India to enquire into allegations of bribery and corruption in the war related procurements. Later on it was formalized as an agency of the Government of India to investigate into allegations of corruption in various wings of the Government of India.  In 1963, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) was established by the Government of India with a view to investigate serious crimes related to Defence of India, corruption in high places, serious fraud, cheating and embezzlement and social crime, particularly of hoarding, black-marketing and profiteering in essential commodities, having all-India and inter-state ramifications. CBI derives its legal powers to investigate crime from the DSPE Act, 1946.

Two senior officials of customs department -- a Deputy Commissioner and a Superintendent -- have been arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation in two different corruption cases, said officials.   In the first case, Vikash Kumar, the Deputy Commissioner of Customs and Jyoti Biswas, an exporter have been arrested, according to CBI, “on the allegations that the arrested accused in connivance with other accused had forged export related documents, used those documents as genuine and obtained huge amount of Duty Drawback against false export of Gaskets to Bangladesh in 2014 in the name of fictitious firms.” In the second case, Sandeep Kumar Dikshit, Superintendent of Customs along with another accused Sudhir Jha, have been arrested by the federal probe agency, “on the allegations of exporting and attempting to export a total 240 metric tons of Red Sanders, a prohibited item, worth Rs 100 crore through N.S. Dock, Kolkata Port in 2016. The case was registered in December 2017.” All the arrested accused will be produced on Tuesday before the Competent Court in Kolkata.

The CBI is divided into three categories when it comes to investigation. The first is the Anti-Corruption Division that investigates cases against public servants under the control of the central government, public servants in public sector undertakings, also under the control of the central government, cases against public servants working under state governments, which have been entrusted to the CBI by the state, and serious departmental irregularities committed by the above mentioned. The Economic Offences Division investigates financial crimes, bank frauds, money laundering, illegal money market operations, graft in PSUs and banks. The Economic Offences Division investigates financial crimes, bank frauds, money laundering, illegal money market operations, graft in PSUs and banks.

The Maharashtra government was vary about the Special Crimes Division taking over the probe into the alleged TRP scam being investigated by the Mumbai Police. Republic TV is among the five channels under police scanner in the case. Since the CBI took over a similar case of manipulation of TRPs, registered by the Uttar Pradesh police on Tuesday, the Maharashtra government feared the central agency would include in its purview the case probed by the Mumbai Police, and attempt to take over.   

Following in the footsteps of non-BJP-ruled states like West Bengal, Rajasthan, and Maharashtra, Kerala on Wednesday withdrew “general consent” given to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to investigate cases in the state. The decision, which was finalised in a Cabinet meeting, means the central agency will have to get consent from the ruling LDF government for every case it registers in Kerala. However, the withdrawal of “general consent” will not have a bearing on cases that CBI has already been investigating.

“We have decided to withdraw the general consent given to the CBI, through the notifications under the Section 6 of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act 1946,” the state government said. “The Central agency would be entrusted with the investigation of cases in necessary situations, only with the special permission of the state government,” it added. Earlier this week, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan slammed central investigating agencies, saying they had exceeded their jurisdiction to “malign and destabilise” an elected state government. In fact, for some time now, leading constituents of the ruling LDF, CPI(M) and CPI, wanted the government to take steps to curb the CBI taking up probes.  Earlier, CPI(M) state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said the party wanted the government to look into legal options to prevent “misuse” of CBI as a political weapon. “Even Congress MP Rahul Gandhi has stated against using CBI as a political weapon. States have every right to decide on the probe agency in a state-level issue as per the federal principles,” he had said.

The decision comes at a time when CBI has registered an FIR in a case of alleged Foreign Currency Regulations Act (FCRA) violation by Life Mission, a state government entity. However, the Kerala High Court stayed the CBI investigation in October following a plea by Life Mission. The CBI is governed by the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act that makes consent of a state government mandatory for conducting the investigation in that state. Since the CBI has jurisdiction only over Central government departments and employees, it can investigate a case involving state government employees or a violent crime in a state only after the government concerned gives consent. General consent is given by states so that the CBI can seamlessly conduct its investigation and not seek the state government nod for every case — unlike the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which has jurisdiction across the country.

In October, the Maharashtra government under Uddhav Thackeray withdrew consent to the central agency. In November 2018, the West Bengal government under TMC and the Andhra Pradesh government, then under TDP, also did the same. The two states had alleged that the agency was being used to target the Opposition. In Andhra, however, the YSRCP government restored consent after coming to power last year. In July this year, Congress-ruled Rajasthan withdrew consent to the central agency.

It smacks politics would be an understatement – why should State Governments fear a free and impartial analysis by a superior agency – the answer is too obvious !

 

Oru CBI Diary Kurippu was a 1988 Indian Malayalam-language mystery thriller film directed by K. Madhu, written by S. N. Swamy, and starring Mammootty, Suresh Gopi, Jagathy Sreekumar, Mukesh, and Sukumaran.  The film was really well taken and the Malayalam movie itself ran packed houses in Chennai especially in Saffire theatre.  The lead character, CBI officer Sethurama Iyer is inspired by a police officer named Radha Vinod Raju, Jammu and Kashmir cadre IPS Officer who in 2009 was appointed as the first chief of India's National Investigation Agency.  This film was  the first in the series of the CBI investigative thrillers featuring Mammootty as Sethurama Iyer.    

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
04.11.2020 

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