The Daily Fix

The Daily Fix: What has the BJP done to set the CBI free from its parrot's cage?

Everything you need to know for the day (and a little more).

The Big Story: Cagey parrot

In the last few years of the corruption-tainted United Progressive Alliance government, it was not uncommon to hear complaints from Bharatiya Janata Party leaders about the ruling Congress’ willingness to use the Central Bureau of Investigation as a political tool. Congress Bureau of Investigation they called it. This impression was given additional ballast during Supreme Court hearings, in which Justice RM Lodha referred to the CBI as a “caged parrot”, forced to speak in its master’s voice.

Ironically, the same allegations are being leveled at the BJP government today. Just as West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee raises the anti-demonetisation pitch, the agency has moved in to arrest her ministers in the alleged Rose Valley chit fund scam in which thousands are said to have been cheated. As Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s battle with the Centre got louder, it was the CBI that shut down his office building and raided the Delhi Secretariat.

As former CBI director Joginder Singh told the Hindustan Times after Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power, “All governments work towards keeping CBI and other investigative agencies under their control.”

In the Rose Valley scam, as in numerous cases against political leaders during the UPA regime, it was not the legitimacy of the investigations themselves that came into question. Many of those seemed like genuine matters that needed looking into. Instead it was the timing of CBI actions, with not much movement on files for months until it became politically expedient for the investigation to move forward.

Under BJP rule, another trend seems to have emerged. The role of the CBI, already under much pressure because of a lack of officers and far too many cases, has expanded to cover any investigation that the Centre deems important – like the matter of cheating PayTM customers. Why else would former Delhi Lt Governor Najeev Jung have to transfer several cases from Delhi Police to the CBI before his departure?

The agency, political tool as it may be, remains one of the more reliable investigating bodies in India and, as a result, it is important that its independence and image be protected. After all its complaints about the “Congress Bureau of Investigation”, the BJP has done little to address this question or that other worrisome matter of whether the agency even has legal sanction to exist.

Responsible governments don’t just govern responsibly, they also create the structures to build integrity into the system. If the BJP truly meant its criticism about the pliability of the CBI and the recognises the need for an independent agency, it needs to do much more to ensure the body does not continue to sing the tune of whoever is in power in Delhi.

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Punditry

  1. Aradhana CV in the Ladies Finger trawls through 45 High Court judgments in rape cases to discover that judges continue to conform to “archaic and gender insensitive and patriarchal precedents” instead of simply looking at consent.
  2. The Income Tax Settlement Commission seems to have its fastest order ever, according to the Indian Express, which points out that it has granted Sahara India immunity from prosecution over documents that listed alleged pay-offs to several politicians including a reference to a former Gujarat “CM”.
  3. Sidddhartha Singh and Bidudatta Pradhan in Bloomberg fall back on their sources to conclude that 97% of banned notes have been returned to banks.
  4. “Everyone likes to view Shivaji through their own prism, however much the image may get distorted,” writes Girish Kuber in the Indian Express.

Giggles

Don’t miss

Aarefa Johari takes you to Gujarat, where dairy farmers from milk cooperatives have not been got cash for more than 50 days.

“’Dairy farmers need cash to buy essentials for their cattle and their homes, and I usually pay them every 10 days for all the milk they have delivered,’ said Tejabhai Tamaliya, the secretary of a milk cooperative in Surendranagar’s Diksar village. Tamaliya’s cooperative has 150 members, whom he needs to pay at the current rate of Rs 5.9 per kilo fat of milk – the amount of milk that would yield 1 kilo of fat. Since most of them haven’t been paid in 50 days, Tamaliya now owes his members a total of nearly Rs 15 lakh.

‘I have the money in my account, but a withdrawal limit of just Rs 24,000 a week is too little – and it’s not like the cooperative bank is able to give us even that much cash each week,’ said Tamaliya, who has made numerous trips to the Surendranagar District Cooperative Bank head office since November 10 to introduce mandali members to the banking system.”

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