Should the CBI be free? This is the question doing the rounds in India today. The Central Bureau of Investigation is the premier investigation agency in India. Like the Supreme Court, the CBI often represents the last hope for an unbiased action. The CBI can trace its history to pre-independence days when the Special Police Enforcement (SPE) was set up to investigate, ironically, bribery and corruption in the War & Supply Department. It was rechristened as the CBI in 1963, with D.P. Kohli as its head.
In the years following its inception, the CBI investigated and prosecuted thousands of cases successfully. Apart from thoroughness, the CBI also came to define an organization that was clean and untainted by the government in the center.
However, the last four years have seen the image of the CBI being eroded as the Manmohan Singh led UPA government uses it as its strong-arm department. Over and over again, we have seen the CBI being used to threaten and cajole coalition partners to stay in line. This behavior has led to increasingly vocal demands to free the CBI from political control.
While on the surface there may seem to be a very strong case to pursue this course of action, there is one over-riding reason why we should not embark down this road – Democracy.
Even allowing for corrupt and ethic-less ministers, it is dangerous to create an extra-constitutional power. One look over the border will show us why it is necessary that the army, courts and the CBI must stay under civilian control.
Kiran Bedi and her cronies keep telling us that we need a Lok Pal to oversee the actions of such departments. But that just puts an extra layer of bureaucracy in a system that is already weighed down enough. Any authority, constitutional or otherwise, is only as clean as the people manning it. So a Lok Pal is not a solution. Instead, what we need are honest people in these key departments.
So how do me make sure only the honest get there? We cant.
All we can do is ensure we remain honest and we bring up honest children.