What is General Consent?
The CBI is regulated by the Special Police Establishment Act of Delhi, that makes consent of a state government mandatory for conducting investigation in that state.
General consent is routinely granted by state governments to the CBI and all agencies under the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act, 1946, for periods ranging from six months to a year.
Consent is required as the jurisdiction of these agencies is limited under this Act to Delhi and the Union Territories.
Two forms of consent exist: case-specific and general. Given that the CBI has jurisdiction only over departments and personnel of the central government, it can only investigate a case involving state government employees or a violent crime in a given state after consent is given by that state government.
General consent "is generally given to assist the CBI to conduct its investigation of corruption cases against central government employees in the state concerned seamlessly." Such approval has been granted by nearly all states. Otherwise, in every case, the CBI will require consent.
DOES THE REMOVAL OF GENERAL CONSENT MEAN THAT IN THE TWO STATES, THE CBI WILL NO LONGER PROBE ANY CASE?
- When general consensus existed, the CBI would also have the right to examine old cases reported.
- Cases reported elsewhere in the nation, but involving individuals stationed in a state with withdrawn general consent, will also cause the jurisdiction of CBI to expand to these states.
- There is uncertainty as to whether, in relation to an old case, the agency will perform a search in one of the two states without the state government's permission.
- Nevertheless, there are legal alternatives to that as well. The CBI can still procure from a local court in the state a search warrant and perform searches.
- If the search involves a surprise factor, Section 166 of the CrPC enables a police officer from one jurisdiction to order another officer to perform searches on his behalf.
- And if the first officer thinks that the searches by the latter which lead to the loss of evidence, the section makes the first officer after giving the latter a notice to perform searches himself.
- Withdrawal of consent would only prohibit the CBI from registering a case in those states jurisdiction.
OTHER CBI CONCERNS:
- Autonomy: the lack of adequate financial and administrative autonomy in non corruption cases has been often cited as major roadblocks in independent investigation by CBI.
- MHA dependency: for staffing, in particular the deputation of IPS officers, which affects the functional autonomy of the officers.
- Constitutional status: the CBI has considerable control over the country's investigative machinery, but it derives its roots from the DPSE Act, 1946, and the 1963 MHA resolution, which places its constitutional status on shaky ground. In 2013, the Guwahati High Court called the CBI unconstitutional, which the Supreme Court later dismissed.
- Political interference: important cases and those of national interest are also handled by the CBI. However, since it is under the jurisdiction of the central government, with the latter having tremendous power over its operation, there have also been reports of political misuse of CBI. In instances such as Bofor’s scam, Hawala scam, 2 G scam case, coal gate scam case, etc., wrongdoing or tardiness in investigation was alleged on the part of CBI. SC, while hearing a coal gate scam case in 2013, called CBI a caged parrot because of this issue.
- Internal faction within the CBI and corruption: Recently, the accusation of corruption between the special director of the CBI, Rakesh Asthana, and the director of the CBI, Alok Verma, leading to the subsequent ouster of the latter by the CVC, brought the internal division within the ranks of the CBI into the foreground. In the corruption event, the Supreme Court ordered a CVC investigation.
How can the CBI be made more effective?
- Legislative support: a formal legal framework to ensure that the CBI works efficiently and autonomously.
- Checking political intervention in appointments: The Lokpal Act 2013, 2013, provides for a 3-member selection committee comprising the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition (LoP) and the Chief Justice of India for appointment as CBI Director. In letter and spirit, the process must be followed.
- Parliamentary accountability: Like the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), parliamentary oversight, will ensure greater accountability, reduce the chances of political abuse, and improve its reputation.
- Dedicated officers: Dedicated officers of their own without relying on deputations. The CVC allows for 2 years of tenure security, which must also be respected for open and impartial inquiries.
Compared with the state police, the CBI has a high conviction rate (65-70%). The changes needed would make the CBI more independent and efficient in dealing with cases. In order to contain internal rivalries and factions, the CBI must also take corrective measures and follow existing procedures to work more transparently and efficiently to fulfil its mandate and to live up to the expectations of the people.