CBI, country’s premier crime investigation agency, losing trust of the people

CBI is very competent when it is investigating an ‘ordinary’ crime. But when investigating a politically sensitive crime, it behaves like a pet dog of the party in power, biting or barking or whining on the command of its master, little caring for law and propriety or even for its own reputation

Maharashtra’s is the latest non-BJP government to withdraw general consent to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for taking up investigation of a crime in the State on its own. Rajasthan, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh and Punjab have already done that. This shows the growing distrust of the people in the CBI. Under the relevant law, the CBI has, unless directed by a competent court, to get approval of the State government concerned to investigate a crime within the State. Having faith in the integrity of the CBI officers, the States had given blanket consent to the agency which some of the States have withdrawn now.

CBI is very competent when it is investigating an ‘ordinary’ crime. But when investigating a politically sensitive crime, it behaves like a pet dog of the party in power, biting or barking or whining on the command of its master, little caring for law and propriety or even for its own reputation. Little wonder that an officer, who was accused of messing up with the evidence in a politically sensitive murder case, was picked up by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to head it. Here are a few politically sensitive cases botched up by the CBI.

Malik Makbooja case: Some politicians, with the help of senior bureaucrats, plundered the forest wealth of Bastar for decades. On a direction of the Supreme Court, the Lokayukta constituted a committee to look into the matter. The committee prepared a comprehensive two-volume report giving precise details of over 800 cases. The Congress government of Madhya Pradesh (Bastar then being part of Madhya Pradesh) headed by Digvijaya Singh flatly — and shamelessly – refused to ask its police to further investigate and prosecute the culprits. The Supreme Court then entrusted the case to the CBI. No one was prosecuted.

Arms Smuggling: A team of Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) of Gujarat police quietly swooped on Ujjain district (MP) in the night and recovered 24 AK-56 rifles, 27 hand grenades, 81 magazines and 5250 cartridges of AK-56 rifles from a disused well near Jhirniya village. An MP police team, led by then DIG (CID) Rajiv Mathur, was later sent to Ahmadabad where it was told by Latif and Sohrab (then in police custody) that Dawood Ibrahim had sent 47 AK-56 rifles to India around January 1993. Of these 32 were transported to Madhya Pradesh in July 1994. Following pressure from the BJP and bad publicity in the national press (Digvijaya Singh is a very publicity-conscious leader), the matter was entrusted to the CBI for investigation. And the officers of this fine investigating agency probably succumbed to Digvijaya Singh’s charm and nothing came out of it.

Som Distilleries:  Jagdish Arora, a small-time liquor vendor, first came to limelight during the BJP regime when he befriended then Chief Minister Sunderlal Patwa and set up his Som Group of Industries, with the ambition of putting the House of Kedias out of business. The Kedias had for long had a near-monopoly of the liquor business in Madhya Pradesh. Arora started with a beer factory and received ample cooperation from Patwa and the bureaucracy to give a concrete shape to his dreams.

When the Congress formed its government, Arora drew closer to Digvijaya Singh, considered as cash hungry as Patwa. Arora was virtually dictating the terms to the government on the excise policy.  Arora’s business escalated from beer to whiskeys and rums; he became the benami owner of all liquor shops in Bhopal and these shops sold nothing but the Som products. When there was a public outcry, the shops did start selling some other brands also, but only grudgingly and sparingly. Arora and his group of industries submitted a fake draft for Rs 3 crore as deposit for the auction of liquor shops in Raipur (then part of Madhya Pradesh). The case was handed over to the CBI for investigation. Only some of his minions were arrested and eventually the matter was closed.

Shehla Masood Murder: Activist Shehla Masood, who had filed over a hundred applications under RTI seeking information on dubious activities of BJP Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh Shivraj Singh Chouhan and his relatives, was shot dead in front of her house as she was about to start her car to go to join an anti-corruption dharna. Then Director General of Police S K Raut and Additional Director General of Police (Intelligence) R K Shukla reached the spot promptly. The case was later handed over to the CBI which, after feeding to the media many cock and bull stories, submitted the charge-sheet in the special court of B K Paloda. Later the CBI changed its fiction and requested the judge to make the ‘real killer’ (as recorded in the charge-sheet) a State approver and the judge, shockingly, did that, even though it is not permitted by the Cr.P.C. The CBI got whatever judgement it wanted from the obliging judge.

Before the case was handed over to the CBI, a sting operation was conducted by Headlines Today. When D S Tomar, Inspector-in charge of the police station of the area, was asked about the ‘shoddy investigation’ by his team, his reply was, inter alia: ‘Within half an hour, the DGP, IG, SSP, SP, Additional SP, almost everyone was there. We started following their instructions and took only those things which they asked us to and left the rest’. Would DGP and Additional DGP (Intelligence) have dared remove the murder evidence unless assured by Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan himself that nothing would happen to them? DGP Raut has retired gracefully and Additional DGP R K Shukla is now Director of CBI.

N D Sharma

is a senior journalist, and Patron of eNewsroom India.

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