For the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), arresting the principal secretary to the Delhi chief minister, Rajendra Kumar, on charges of corruption would certainly not have been an easy option.
More so because Kumar was co-operating with the investigation, and responded to all the summons served on him by the country’s premier investigative agency. The CBI could have continued its investigation by charge-sheeting him in the court.
The CBI, however, chose to arrest Kumar being fully aware that Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal would cry blue murder and call no less than Prime Minister Narendra Modi names – as he has done in the past. It is in this context that the arrest evokes intense curiosity. Has the CBI gathered enough proof against Rajendra Kumar, making his arrest inevitable?
The investigation has, so far, failed to produce a convincing case against Kumar. Sources in the CBI admit that an arrest becomes inevitable only when there are chances that the accused might influence witnesses or tamper with the evidence. None of these criteria apply to Kumar. Going by the service record, Kumar never came across an an officer with dubious integrity.
There is little doubt that the CBI has put much at stake by arresting Kumar, following his interrogation on Monday afternoon. Kejriwal and his colleagues would call it political vendetta unleashed by the investigative agency to please its political masters, who are at loggerheads with the AAP government in Delhi. And, the whole case would open a Pandora's box if its tenability in the court of law is questioned.
It seems that if the CBI fails to produce concrete evidence of Rajendra Kumar’s involvement in the corruption case, it could lead to one of the worst face-offs till date between the Centre and the government in the quasi-state of Delhi.
Perhaps nobody knows it better than the prime minister himself, as to how it pinches when the Centre launches a political vendetta. In his over a decade-long reign in Gujarat, he was at the receiving end of the Centre’s vindictive moves to incite bureaucracy and implicate them in false cases. The CBI was used brazenly to implicate politicians and bureaucrats, more often based on flimsy evidence than on tangible proofs.
Modi’s protestations back then acquired a ring of truth, and evoked public sympathy on a large scale. Needless to say, the CBI’s shoddy investigation in this case would cast a slur on the image of a government that claims to pursue cooperative federalism and to follow a bipartisan approach on critical issues. It is bound to give enough leverage to Kejriwal to use it to advance AAP's political prospects in Punjab and Goa.
However, the proclivity of the CBI to be used as a cat’s paw for their political masters can hardly be undermined. On many occasions, the CBI bosses’ actions were guided by second-guessing their political masters and not on the basis of evidence collected during the investigation. CBI chief Anil Kumar Sinha has shown this tendency in the past, when he launched an attack on Vijay Mallya in a conference of bankers in Mumbai, a day before Mallya finally left for London.
By all indications, the arrest of Rajendra Kumar would require the CBI to reveal the evidence that implicates the senior IAS officer in the Rs 50 crore corruption case. Any prevarication on the CBI’s part would not only reaffirm its image of a “caged parrot” – used euphemistically by the Supreme Court – but also vest it with predatory attributes. And such an insinuation would not be happy situation.