The Supreme Court on Monday expressed concern on states withdrawing general consent given to the Central Bureau of Investigation in operating on their territories, reported Bar and Bench.

A bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and MM Sundresh said that it was not a “desirable position”. It has referred the case to Chief Justice NV Ramana.

Eight states – West Bengal, Maharashtra, Kerala, Punjab, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram – have withdrawn their consent allowing the central agency to conduct inquiries in their territories. Many of these states have alleged that the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Centre was misusing the agency settle scores against their political opponents.

Without the consent, the agency has to approach the state government on a case-to-case basis, seeking permission to conduct an inquiry.

The YS Jagan Mohan Reddy government had reversed the decision after it was elected to power in Andhra Pradesh.

The Central Bureau of Investigation comes under the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act and requires states to give it general consent to look into allegations against central government employees within a state. This is because the police and public order fall under the purview of state governments, which regularly renew their permission.

The Supreme Court was hearing a plea by the Central Bureau of Investigation against a Jammu and Kashmir High Court order in a case filed against two lawyers Mohammad Altaf Mohand and Sheikh Mubarak for allegedly threatening witnesses and fabricating false evidence.

In September, the court had directed the central agency to file an affidavit detailing steps it has taken to improve its prosecution unit and to identify the bottlenecks faced by the agency.

In its affidavit, the CBI said that appellate courts and High Courts have stayed investigation in 11,327 cases so far, reported Live Law. The agency also said that seeking specific consent from states on a case-to-case basis was time consuming and has proven to be detrimental in prompt investigation.

On Monday, the court noted the agency’s submission that 150 requests of specific sanctions were pending in the eight states between 2018 and June 2021.

Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain pointed out that 11,327 cases stayed were filed by the accused persons. In addition to this, Jain said that there are other 931 cases filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation that have been stayed.

On the aspect of consent, the court said that the 18% of the cases were for investigating “corrupt public servants” and 78% of the total cases are pending.

On cases being stayed by courts, the bench said that it has issued parameters on such decisions.

“Both the aforesaid aspects need to be addressed in Public Interest Litigation with notice sent to concerned states and HCs,” the court said. “We deem it apt to place this aspect before the CJI for his speculation.”