The Indian Police Service's top brass — both retired and active — is extremely upset by the ongoing fracas in the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The retired officers in particular, feel the row has besmirched the reputation of one of the world’s premier investigation agencies and are speaking up against the Centre's handling of the matter.
Ex-CBI chief Vijay Shanker, who helped hone the investigative skills of top CBI sleuths said, "Can there be anything more painful than watching this? I'm grieving. Is there any question of the common man receiving justice with these goings-on?" That's the question Shanker, who has an outstanding record of investigating cases of heinous crimes and corruption, finds himself pondering.
While Shanker refused to comment on the manner in which ex-CBI chief Alok Verma was removed from his post by the high-level Selection Committee headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he added: "For the country, it's a question of the rule of law."
Former Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) chief KC Verma — a top police officer who put in several years with the Intelligence Bureau and the narcotics department — said wryly, "As far as I'm concerned, in this matter, everyone is a sinner. Alok was Delhi commissioner of police. He was the head of his cadre. He must have jockeyed to get this appointment, given that he had never worked in the CBI earlier. But if you get posted to GB Road, you should know what you are in for. When you occupy this seat, you know you have to be a hatchet man for the political party in power. At the senior level, these are political appointments."
He added, "NK Singh was CBI special director (he arrested Indira Gandhi in 1977), but he did not hesitate to put in his papers. At the senior levels, these are political appointments. When Rakesh Asthana was appointed CBI special director against Alok's wishes, Alok should have put in his papers. I have no expectations from this government, or any other, as each has their own political agenda. Earlier, CBI bosses Ranjit Sinha and AP Singh did not do credit to their office. Today, I received a WhatsApp message listing properties owned by Alok. Why should he have placed himself in a position where people can point fingers at you?"
Speaking on the accusations made against the ex-CBI chief by Central Vigilance Commission chief KV Chowdary, he said, "Chowdary does not have a great reputation either. So where does that leave us? We have managed to destroy each and every institution in our country. In the past four years, the situation has been most unfortunate. Both the Congress and BJP are indulging in mud-slinging. In US politics, a lot of attention is paid to private lives and personal allegations are levied against each other, but in India nobody besmirched reputations to this extent. Today, personal allegations are being levied all the time, a girlfriend here, against wives... public life should have more than mud-slinging."
A CBI source said when Asthana was reappointed to the CBI, it was with the backing of the top leadership in the government. "Unfortunately, the CBI had a different hierarchy which led to conflict and tussle. Soon, Asthana began to act as the boss of the agency and was holding meetings which should have been held by Verma. That's how things went from bad to worse, leaving the staff completely paralysed and demoralised," the source added.
Ex-IG Police SR Darapuri, national spokesperson for the All India Peoples Front (Radical), pins the blame for the "sorry spectacle" squarely on the shoulders of the political establishment. "It’s a political game," Darapuri said. "Otherwise why would Verma have received transfer orders at 2 am? These orders were given without proper procedures being followed. And after Verma was reinstated by the Supreme Court, he was again given transfer orders within 24 hours of resuming office."
"There is a growing suspicion that Verma was connected to something important," Darapuri added. When further queried about this, Darapuri said he the government was afraid Verma would have had a preliminary inquiry initiated into the Rafale deal, which would have led to a complaint being registered. The establishment wanted to forestall that, Darapuri claimed.
Darapuri said he "regrets" that these interjections have weakened the CBI as an institution of authority. He added, "It is also obvious that the government wants to try and save Asthana and that is why they are adopting dirty tactics against Verma. The Modi government is playing with institutions and misusing the law to their own benefit, which is proving to be very demoralising for the bureaucracy. Our institutions are not being allowed to function independently."
"We cannot forget the CBI is the premier investigative agency in the land. If CVC upheld allegations (against Verma), then it was for the high-powered committee led by the prime minister to give Verma a chance to explain his case. By not doing so, it has gone against the process of natural justice. Unfortunately, our leaders have no sense of propriety. The government thinks it is above the law. This bungling in the CBI is going to further strengthen suspicions against the Rafale deal, but thanks to social media, these developments are being followed at the village-level and are bound to create an adverse impression against the way the government is functioning," added Darapuri.
DGP (retired) Vikram Singh is equally forthright in his criticism of what he describes as the "game of musical chairs". "These kind of allegations and counter-allegations are not good for any uniformed service. Our police force was second to none and now we are witness to how a number one and number two cannot see eye to eye. What kind of HR skills did they possess? How could they have made it to the top posts?" Singh wondered.
"The process of selection to the top posts of the CBI is extremely elaborate. Earlier, only those with unimpeachable integrity would be selected, but these checks-and-balances seem to have been thrown to the wind. Some CBI bosses such as Trinath Mishra, SK Datta, D Sen and DP Kohli (its founding father), were all from the Uttar Pradesh cadre. They led simple and unostentatious lives. These were men devoted to the cause of the uniform. It is only when you do this that you can have the moral high ground."
"When promotion procedures give way to political expediency, it is instrumental in the dissemination of the organisation. Discipline suffers, casteism and communalism set in and we are then witness to levels of intellectual dishonesty, which affect the morale of the institution because then the concerned individual will need to operate through a band of loyalists. The CBI director has the power to make all those below him fall in line. He has the kind of power which even the prime minister does not have and that is of telling the number two that he had better fall in line or else we will send him to jail," Singh said.
Continuing in this critical vein, Singh added, "The CBI was known world over for being a premier investigating organisation. Today, we have become the laughing stock of the world. Do we have the political mechanism to restore the organisation to its original credibility? That's the first thing that needs to be done."
A senior CBI officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the rot had set in so deep that matters could be salvaged only by handing over the agency's day-to-day affairs to the Supreme Court.
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Updated Date: Jan 12, 2019 16:57:48 IST