Opinion

CBI can be adventurous in hounding political targets but not bankers 

Minister without portfolio Arun Jaitley reminds CBI that what it is allowed to do in ‘political’ cases, is out of bounds for it in other cases; that it can hound ‘political opponents’ but not bankers

Rahul Pandey

It really couldn’t get any worse for the Central Bureau of Investigations. The Opposition says the ‘caged parrot’ has become an instrument of political oppression, the media calls it an organisation which is at war with itself and now, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has declared that CBI has been indulging in ‘Investigative Adventurism.’

Well, when Anand Sharma and Arun Jaitley agree on something, they are usually right.

Sitting on a hospital bed in New York, the former Finance Minister is perhaps indicating that the government has two play-books for the CBI, one for political cases and the other for normal cases.

Someone forgot to tell the CBI that ICICI was not a political case and that they needed to have a professional investigation. And no, you couldn’t name people like K V Kamath, Sandeep Bakhshi, N S Kannan, Zarin Daruwala, Rajiv Sabharwal, Sonjoy Chatterjee and Homi Khusrokhan, the former FM seems to be saying.

Jaitley ji is deeply disturbed by this. “There is a fundamental difference between investigative adventurism and professional investigation. Investigative adventurism involves casting the net too wide including people with no mens rea or even having a common intention to commit an offence, relying on presumptions and surmises with no legally admissible evidence. Adventurism leads to media leaks, ruins reputations and eventually invites strictures and not convictions. In the process, the targets are ruined because of harassment, loss of reputation and financial costs. It costs people their career,” he wrote in his blog.

Mr Jaitley is not your average rabble-rouser Minister in the Modi cabinet. He has had a few slips (like the ‘minor rape’ controversy in August 2014) but he is usually sharp with his words, inside and outside the Parliament. As one of the chief orchestrators of the media circus, he would have known that his blog would be read, and perhaps used against his party. So, what is Mr Jaitley trying to say here?

The problem with the CBI is that they have been so focused on the political ‘bull’s eye,’ that they have forgotten that they are a professional investigative agency with some of the finest officers in the country

Unwittingly, he is saying that under the present political dispensation, there are two types of investigations: political and professional. In political investigations, the CBI’s job is to follow the instructions to the last word and frame the political opponents of the government.

In these cases, the CBI has the mandate to ‘cast the net too wide and include people with ‘no mens rea or even having a common intention to commit an offence,’ to place what the former FM said in the political context. We have seen this happen over and over again over the last five years and at times the CBI has come close to winning the Pulitzer in the fiction category.

The second category- professional investigations, simply doesn’t exist.

It has conducted a series of raids against former Finance Minister P Chidambaram and the latest one being against former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda just before an important bye-election in his state. In most of these cases, the CBI had first identified the ‘accused’ and then tried to spin a case around it. The focus has been more to get into the news cycles and less on following the law. Political outcomes were always more important in such cases.

Jaitley ji perhaps had this in mind when he wrote, “Adventurism leads to media leaks, ruins reputations and eventually invites strictures and not convictions. In the process, the targets are ruined because of harassment, loss of reputation and financial costs. It costs people their career.” I respect Jaitley ji for being so honest.

Since it has largely been handling fictional cases involving opposition leaders and it seems that the CBI has forgotten how investigations are to be conducted, Jaitley ji in his blog tells the CBI what a professional investigation is like.

“Professional investigation targets the real accused on the basis of actual and admissible evidences. It rules out fanciful presumptions. There is no personal malice or corruption. It targets the guilty and protects the innocent. It secures convictions and furthers public interest. One of the reasons why our conviction rates are so poor is that adventurism and megalomania overtake our investigators and professionalism takes a back seat,” he says.

Add the phrase ‘political considerations’ to ‘adventurism and megalomania’ and you see what is wrong with the CBI.

The courts would decide if the accused in the ICICI-Videocon case are guilty or not and if K V Kamath, Sandeep Bakhshi, N S Kannan, ZarinDaruwala, Rajiv Sabharwal, Sonjoy Chatterjee and HomiKhusrokhan should face trial but their reputations are likely to take a hit. Or perhaps not, considering that CBI’s allegations carry little weight.

The former Finance Minister has a word of advice for the CBI- “Instead of focusing primarily on the target, is a journey to nowhere (or everywhere) being undertaken? If we include the entire who’s who of the Banking Industry – with or without evidence – what cause are we serving or actually hurting. My advice to our investigators – Follow the advice of Arjun in the Mahabharat – Just concentrate on the bull’s eye.”

The problem with the CBI is that they have been so focused on the political ‘bull’s eye,’ that they have forgotten that they are a professional investigative agency with some of the finest officers in the country. But then, this is what happens when they forget that the CBI’s job is to catch criminals and ensure convictions and not to prove fictional allegations made by a political party.

Well, as I said it is not often that Arun Jaitley and Anand Sharma agree on something and when they do, they are usually right.

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