Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said that the Central Bureau of Investigation officers should take action against the corrupt, no matter how powerful, without any hesitation.

Addressing a gathering at the diamond jubilee celebrations of the Central Bureau of Investigation, the prime minister said that corruption is the biggest roadblock to democracy and justice.

The Central Bureau of Investigation’s main task is to free India from corruption, he added.

“No corrupt person should be spared,” Modi stressed. “There should be no laxity in our efforts. This is the wish of the people of the country. The country, law and Constitution are with you. Today, there is no dearth of political will to take action against corruption in the country.”

He said the central agency is the brand ambassador of justice. “Even today, when a case remains unsolved, there are demands it should be handed over to the CBI,” the prime minister told the gathering. “CBI’s name is on everyone’s lips. Even at panchayat level if some important crime comes, people want it to be referred to the CBI.”

Modi claimed that those who benefitted from corruption for decades have created an ecosystem that targets the central investigative agencies.

“I know that the people against whom you are taking action are very powerful, they have been part of the government and system for years,” he added. “But the agencies should not to be deterred by stories about power of the corrupt.”

Opposition allegations of misuse of CBI

The Central Bureau of Investigation, which reports to the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Union government, has for long been seen by its critics as the Centre’s tool to exert pressure on its political rivals, particularly in Opposition-ruled states.

Last month, 14 Opposition parties had moved the Supreme Court alleging that the Centre is misusing agencies such as the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate.

On March 5, leaders of eight Opposition parties wrote to Modi saying that the misuse of investigative agencies suggested “that we have transitioned from being a democracy to an autocracy”. This was a week after the Central Bureau of Investigation arrested former Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia in a case related to alleged irregularities in the city’s now-scrapped liquor policy.

The letter to the prime minister was signed by nine Opposition leaders – the Aam Aadmi Party’s Arvind Kejriwal and Bhagwant Mann, the Rashtriya Janata Dal’s Tejashwi Yadav, Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Uddhav Thackeray, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, Jammu and Kashmir National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah, Samjwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav and Bharat Rashtra Samithi chief K Chandrashekhar Rao.

In September, The Indian Express had reported the Central Bureau of Investigation had investigated 72 politicians during the United Progressive Alliance years of 2004 to 2014, of whom 43 were from the Opposition.

In contrast, during the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance regime starting 2014, at least 124 prominent politicians have been probed by the agency, of which 118 were from the Opposition.

Therefore, not only has the number of Opposition politicians being investigated gone up by nearly three times under Modi compared to the previous government, the proportion of Opposition leaders among all politicians being investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation also jumped from around 60% to 95%.