The Big Story: Caged parrot

Towards the end of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s second term, as the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government weakened, the mood turned decisively against arbitrary use of the Union government’s power. The nakedly political way in which the ruling party deployed the Central Bureau of Investigation came under special scrutiny, with Narendra Modi describing the agency as the “Congress Bureau of Investigation”. The Supreme Court memorably called the CBI a “caged parrot”.

Three years into the Modi administration, the parrot seems to have been shifted from a Congress cage to a Bharatiya Janata Party cage.

On Sunday, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam working president MK Stalin sharply criticised the BJP for using Union government agencies such as the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate to allegedly influence politics in Tamil Nadu. “It is now crystal clear that the BJP-led Centre is directing this blindly obvious one-sided application of ‘selective raids’ and ‘selective arrests’ against one faction of the AIADMK while turning a blind eye towards the other faction by ignoring the strong incriminating evidence against them,” said Stalin.

This isn’t the first allegation of the Modi government using the might of the Union government to bully smaller players in the states. In Delhi, the Aam Aadmi Party government has been under constant attack since it came to power, with as many as 13 MLAs arrested and the office of the chief minister itself raided. An Indian Administrative Service officer has even complained that the CBI pressured him to implicate Chief Minister Kejriwal in a corruption charge.

In West Bengal, like Delhi, there are similar alleations. The Trinamool-BJP fight is being conducted using the various arms of state. The Union government has used the CBI as well as the Enforcement Directorate to pressure the Mamata Banerjee government while she, in turn, has used the West Bengal police to file case against BJP leaders in the state.

So sharply partisan is the CBI now viewed as that recently, when it revived conspiracy charges against LK Advani in the Babri demolition case, it was widely seen as a move by Narendra Modi to undercut Advani’s bid for President and keep the Ayodhya issue burning for political gain.

In the Constituent Assembly, as India’s founding fathers debated the shape of the new country, law and order was a subject unambiguously given over to the states. Unfortunately, the use of Central agencies such as the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate pervert this arrangement, allowing the Union government to use law and order as an excuse to meddle politically in the states. This represents a serious threat to federalism and democracy in India. Since law and order is a state subject, there is little Constitutional or moral backing for the Union’s actions. In 2013, in fact, the Gauhati High Court had declared the CBI unconstitutional – an order stayed by the Supreme Court.

Given the recent record of the court in stalling prickly cases, there is little hope that the Supreme Court will rule on this soon. Yet, the political misuse of the CBI is clear. The parrot is still hale, hearty – and caged.

The Big Scroll

  1. What has the BJP done to set the CBI free from its parrot’s cage, asks Rohan Venkataramakrishnan
  2. Why hasn’t the BJP handed the Vyapam scam investigation to the CBI yet, writes Ipsita Chakravarty.

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  1. In Bloomberg Quint, Ira Dugal writes about the stealth privatisation of Indian banking.
  2. The Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act 2016, or RERA, will have a far-reaching impact on builders who will need to recalibrate their business practices to stay relevant, argues Rajeev Bhairathi in Mint.
  3. Eight hours for work, eight hours for sleep, eight hours for what you will: May Day owes its origins not to Cuba or the USSR but anarchists and socialists in the United States. Eric Chase tells the day’s history on the Industrial Workers of the World website.


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“’We cannot even bathe our newborn grandchild,’ said Rakshagananthan. ‘The cattle in this village are also dying of thirst.’

Back in Karaimedu village, Anbazhagan and Jayachandran’s discussion over water in their lake continued. 

‘We have lived by this lake for decades,’ said Anbazhagan, shaking his head. ‘We were not even consulted or informed about our water being directed to Chennai.’

‘There will be more protests if water continues to be diverted to the city,’ said Jayachandran. ‘Shouldn’t we have rights over our own water?’”