The Central Bureau of Investigation is not a “caged parrot” anymore, Union minister Kiren Rijiju said on Sunday, asserting that the institution was performing its duty as India’s top criminal investigating agency.

Rijiju, who holds the law and justice portfolio in the Union Cabinet, made the statement in a tweet as he shared excerpts of his speech at a first conference of the investigating officers of the agency.

Rijiju made the remarks two days after Chief Justice of India NV Ramana had said that the reputation of the central agency has come under the scanner over time. Ramana had also said that the Central Bureau of Investigation’s “actions and inactions have often raised questions regarding its credibility”.

Last year, the Madras High Court had asked the Centre to consider making the Central Bureau of Investigation an autonomous body that would report only to Parliament. The High Court had referred to the agency as a “caged parrot” and recommended that it should be given independence like the Election Commission and the Comptroller and Auditor General of India.

Opposition parties have also alleged that the Modi-led government uses the Central Bureau of Investigation and other agencies to target those who criticise it.

On Sunday, Rijiju noted that the judiciary has made “unsavoury remarks” about the agency in the past.

But he added: “We have come a long way now.”

The minister said there was a time people in the government had created obstacles in the inquiry led by the Central Bureau of Investigation. But, he added, that now Prime Minister Narendra Modi is leading the campaign against corruption.

“Now, from the highest office to the lowest in the government of India, you’ll find that the challenges some of the officers had faced in the past are no more in existence,” he said.

Rijiju said that the central agency remained a pride for everyone despite instances that have become a black spot on the functioning of the agency. “70% approximately – this is the foremost investigating agency of the world with the highest conviction rate,” he added.

Allegations against CBI

Opposition leaders have routinely alleged that the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Union government exerts control on the functioning of central investigative agencies.

On March 27, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had accused the BJP of misusing the Enforcement Directorate, the Central Bureau of Investigation, the Income Tax Department and the Central Vigilance Commission to carry out a “political witch hunt”.

On April 1, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had asked the BJP not to target his family members in order to come to power in the state. His remarks had come three days after his brother-in-law Sridhar Madhav Patankar’s assets worth Rs 6.45 crore were frozen by the Enforcement Directorate for his alleged involvement in a money laundering case.

Nine states in the country have also so far withdrawn general consent to the Central Bureau of Investigation from operating in its territory. These states are Meghalaya, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Kerala, Punjab, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram.

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

Many of these states have alleged that the BJP government was misusing the Central Bureau of Investigation to settle scores against their political opponents.