CBI, the ‘caged parrot’, is dead; long live the CBI

Only a compromised agency can rely on the testimony of a proven and congenital liar and a criminal to accuse former finance minister P. Chidambaram of accepting₹10 lakhs as bribe

Former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram at Rouse Avenue court complex in New Delhi (IANS file photo).
Former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram at Rouse Avenue court complex in New Delhi (IANS file photo).

Sujata Anandan

There are few women in history who were as ruthless, inhuman, venal or mendacious as Indrani Mukherjea.

At one time, she was well known in media circles in Mumbai, being a top executive in a particular media company and anyone who came in contact with her could clearly gauge she was very ambitious, cutthroat-competitive and absolutely heartless in dealing with her juniors, while always being ingratiating with her seniors.

She was also obsessed with her looks and in ‘Page Three’ circles which she and her husband Peter Mukherjea, who headed the media group she had been working in, frequented. It was obvious he was besotted by her and could see no evil or wrong in her.

But evil she was and the manner in which she cold-bloodedly plotted and executed her daughter's murder, has been bone chilling and unprecedented at least in contemporary history. But the root cause of the murder was her mendacity.

In an era before Aadhaar cards and birth certificates, she passed herself off as a decade younger than she really was and an admission that Sheena Bora was actually her daughter and not her sister as she had tried to pass her off to the world would expose her as a liar to her husband. So, she kept that fact hidden from her own friends and family.

Now whatever the family disputes and their financial dealings and tax concealments which are said to be largely responsible for Sheena's murder, what happened later proved that Indrani Mukherjea is a congenital liar and has no compunction about weaving a web of lies to hide her own crimes and justify her ends.

I am always freshly horrified when I think of how she sent out messages from her daughter's mobile phone and email i-d to her friends and employers, pretending that Sheena had suddenly decided to take off to the US, hoping to stem further curiosity and attempts by friends to track her down.

But she got caught because her stepson, Rahul Mukherjea, who had wanted to marry Sheena and was told the truth by the girl who, unlike her mother, did not want to base her relationship with her future husband on a lie, had recorded all the conversations he had had with Indrani.

She kept pretending Sheena had been in touch with her and that flummoxed Rahul because, firstly, Sheena had left behind her passport with him (how could she have travelled abroad without that crucial document?) and there had been no quarrel between them. So why should Sheena have shut Rahul off so completely?

When I read the transcripts of those surreptitiously recorded conversations, I was not just chilled to the bone but also wondered how Indrani's conscience could be so dead that she wove those web of lies without fear of the consequences. Even in custody, she tried to pass off the blame for the murder on everyone, including Rahul Mukerhea, and refused to accept her guilt. But the evidence caught up with her and she could play innocent no longer.

Now this is the kind of woman on whose so-called statement the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is basing their ridiculous case against former union minister P. Chidambaram. In all these weeks of investigation, they have been unable to unearth any document to pin any financial misdemeanour on Chidambaram but now they have decided to “pardon" Indrani in return for implicating Chidambaram on the charge of accepting a bribe of ₹10 lakhs.

Now there are many ridiculous facets to this pardon. First, it is Indrani's word against Chidambaram’s and between the two, I would rather believe Chidambaram than a congenitally mendacious criminal like Indrani Mukherjea.

Secondly, Chidambaram is a top lawyer in this country and I know from friends and others, he could make five times that amount in a day and seeking merely Rs 10 lakh to clear a news channel for the Mukherjeas would be not just an insult to them but also to his own worth and value as a top minister in the government. Critics have described Rs 10 lakh as loose change for Chidambaram, but I think that amount goes into fractions of the loose change that a man as dynamically rich as Chidambaram is.

Now we know that all governments have routinely misused the CBI to settle their own political scores and the current ruling dispensation is no exception. During the UPA regime the Supreme Court, in a searing indictment, had described the CBI as a caged parrot and the BJP would mock it as the Congress Bureau of Investigation.

But the manner in which the BJP is now misusing the agency against uncooperative political rivals has not just touched the heights of absurdity but also sunk to the depths of preposterous shenanigans.

Ordinarily, one would dismiss such ridiculousness as the usual political vengeance because the courts could always be relied upon to correct a travesty of justice. But in Chidambaram's case, it is obvious that even the judiciary is under pressure to disregard the law and endorse government actions that are completely unjust and politically motivated.

I was still a student during the Emergency but from the stories I heard from those affected, I can say that even then there was no misuse of the powers of government as is being done now. There were still independent minded judges and lawyers who tried to take on the then government and were assured that eventually the judiciary would come to their rescue.

Moreover, all those in government then were intelligent enough not to bend the laws beyond a point and I do not think any investigating agency based their cases on completely manufactured facts and the statements of a congenital liar.

In the film Article 15 that I caught on television recently, the central character, a police officer investigating a murder, tells the CBI officer trying to absolve the guilty that for long years after saying ‘yes sir’ to everybody in New Delhi, he has lost his conscience to such an extent that he does not even know he is dead.

That is a very apt description for today’s CBI. It is truly dead and really does not know it.

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Published: 20 Oct 2019, 9:00 AM