Says democracy best suited for diverse country like India
New Delhi: CBI’s credibility has come under deep public scrutiny with the passage of time as its actions and inactions have raised questions in some cases, Chief Justice N V Ramana Friday said and called for creating an “independent umbrella institution” to bring various investigating agencies under one roof.
“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 the CBI, as it was a symbol of impartiality and independence.
“Whenever the citizenry doubted the skill and impartiality of its own state police, they sought an investigation by the CBI, as they wanted justice to be done. 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 raised questions regarding its credibility, in some cases,” Justice Ramana said.
The CJI, who was speaking at the 19th D P Kohli Memorial Lecture of CBI on “Democracy: Role and Responsibilities of Investigative Agencies,” said there was an “immediate requirement for the creation of an independent umbrella institution for the investigating agencies to bring various agencies like CBI, SFIO, ED, etc under one roof”.
Justice Ramana said the body was required to be “created under a statute” clearly defining its powers, functions, and duties.
He said such a law will also need too much needed “legislative oversight” for the “upright organisation” to be headed by an “independent and impartial authority” to be appointed by a committee which appoints the director of the CBI.
“The head of the organisation can be assisted by deputies who are specialists in different domains. This umbrella organisation will end a multiplicity of proceedings. A single instance these days gets investigated by multiple agencies often leading to dilution of evidence, contradictions in depositions, prolonged establishment of innocence. It will also save the institutions from being blamed as the tools of harassment,” he said.
Once an instance is reported, the organisation should decide as to which specialised unit should take up the investigation, Justice Ramana said.
Justice Ramana said the Police and the investigative agencies may have De-Facto legitimacy, but yet, as institutions, they still have to gain social legitimacy.
“Police should work impartially and focus on crime prevention. They should also work in co-operation with the public to ensure law and order prevails in the society,” he said.
Justice Ramana said institutions including the Police and the investigative bodies should not allow any authoritarian tendencies to creep in and need to function within the democratic framework as any deviation will hurt them and will weaken our democracy.
“All the institutions including the Police and the investigative bodies uphold and strengthen the democratic values. They should not allow any authoritarian tendencies to creep in.
“They need to function within the democratic framework as prescribed under the Constitution. Any deviation will hurt the institutions and will weaken our democracy,” he said.
Justice Ramana said that as an institution, CBI has so many achievements to its credit and in the process, many of its personnel have put their health and lives at risk.
“Some have also made the supreme sacrifice. In spite of all this, it is ironical that people hesitate to approach the police in times of despair. 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.
“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,” Justice Ramana said.
The CJI said the first step to gain the same is to break the nexus with the political executive.
“Often the best of talents enter this system in expectation of recognition and accolades. But, if the threat of infection looms large, honest and upright officers find it difficult to stand by their oath,” he said.
Justice Ramana praised CBI Director S K Jaiswal and said he comes across as an officer who is committed towards improving the functioning of the organisation.
“I remember the times when, CBI in its anxiety, used to conduct several press conferences even before conducting a proper investigation. I am happy to note that under the present leadership the organization is maintaining a low profile, as it should be. My only wish, Mr. Director, is that you abide by the rule book and stand by principles. I wish you, and all the officials of CBI, the best for the future,” he said.
The CJI paid tributes to D P Kohli, the founding director of CBI, and said he was an exemplary officer.
“Shri Kohli was renowned for his courage, conviction, and remarkable efficiency. His vision turned CBI into the premier investigative agency of India. The tales of his unimpeachable integrity travelled far and wide,” the CJI said.
Underlining that democracy is best suited for a diverse country like India, NV Ramana said the country’s rich diversity cannot be sustained through dictatorial governance.
He said given our experience with democracy so far, it is proven beyond doubt that democracy is best suited for a pluralistic society like ours.
“Our rich diversity cannot be sustained through dictatorial governance. It is only through democracy that our rich culture, heritage, diversity, and pluralism can be sustained and strengthened,” he said.
“We have a vested interest in strengthening democracy, because we essentially believe in democratic way of living. We Indians love our freedom. When any attempt has been made to snatch our freedom, our alert citizenry did not hesitate to seize the power back from autocrats”.
So, it is essential that all institutions, including police and the investigative bodies, uphold and strengthen democratic values. PTI