NEW DELHI: Chief Justice of India (CJI) NV Ramana on Friday called upon the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and police to focus on reclaiming “social legitimacy and public trust” as he said that CBI’s credibility had come under “deep public scrutiny” in recent years.
Addressing the 19th DP Kohli Memorial Lecture on ‘Democracy: Role and Responsibilities of Investigative Agencies’ organised by CBI here, the CJI said that breaking “the nexus with the political executive” would be the first step towards regaining public trust for investigating and law enforcement agencies.
“When it comes to the CBI, it possessed immense trust of the public in its initial phase. In fact, the Judiciary used to be flooded with requests for transfer of investigations to CBI, as it was a symbol of impartiality and independence,” CJI Ramana said.
“But, with the passage of time, like every other institution of repute, the CBI has also come under deep public scrutiny. Its actions and inactions have often raised questions regarding its credibility,e added.
Speaking on the role of the police in the prevention of crime, the CJI said police should work in co-operation with the public to ensure law and order prevails in the society, adding that people hesitate to approach police in times of despair.
He said, “The image of the institution of police is regrettably tarnished by allegations of corruption, police excesses, lack of impartiality and close nexus with the political class.”
Expressing concerns on political influence on police, he said, “Often, the police officers approach us with the complaint that they are being harassed after the change in the regime. When you try to endear yourselves to the powers, you will have to face the consequences.”
“The need of the hour is to reclaim social legitimacy and public trust. The first step to gain the same is to break the nexus with the political executive,” CJI Ramana stressed.
He further stated that the misuse of police by political masters was not new. “The British Empire deployed domination, surveillance and coercion, which remain the enduring feature of the Indian police. When the Indian National Congress started leading the freedom struggle, the Empire created a Central Intelligence Agency for collecting information about political and social movements and the freedom struggle. You all know how CBI evolved from SPE with the aid of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act,” he recalled.
He also emphasised the need for the creation of an umbrella institution for investigating agencies like CBI, Enforcement Directorate (ED) and Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO). “This body is required to be created under a statute, clearly defining its powers, functions and jurisdictions. Such a law will also lead to much needed legislative oversight,” the CJI said.
“This umbrella organisation will end multiplicity of proceedings,” he added.
He asserted that a single incident these days gets investigated by multiple agencies, often leading to dilution of evidence, contradiction in depositions, and prolonged incarceration of innocents.