The Modi government on Thursday told the Supreme Court that it has no control over the Central Bureau of Investigation since it has a separate legal identity, reported Live Law.

A division bench of Justices BR Gavai and Arvind Kumar was hearing a plea filed against the Centre by the ruling Trinamool Congress government in West Bengal. The party accused the central agency of launching investigations in several cases in the state without the government’s consent.

Under the Constitution, “police” is a state subject and does not fall under the purview of the Union government. As a result, the law that governs the Central Bureau of Investigation specifically states that the organisation can not act “without the consent of the government of that state”.

However, the Supreme Court and the High Courts can order the central agency to investigate a crime anywhere in the country without the consent of the state.

In its plea, the West Bengal government urged the Supreme Court to issue directions to the Centre to stop the Central Bureau of Investigation’s inquiry into 12 cases.

At Thursday’s hearing, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, said that the Central Bureau of Investigation is an independent agency. Opposition leaders have accused the organisation of being politically partisan.

But Mehta asserted, “CBI is not a limb of the Centre. It is a statutory body under the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act.”

He explained that according to the Allocation of Business Rules of the Union Government, the Central Bureau of Investigation comes under the Centre’s Department of Personnel and Training but it does not exercise any “functional control” over the agency’s investigations.

“If DoPT [Department of Personnel and Training] cannot direct registration of offence, setting aside of an offence, or monitoring of investigation, how can the suit lie against DoPT?” he asked.

Mehta urged the judges to dismiss the plea, arguing that even the Central Vigilance Commission, which has the power of superintendence over the Central Bureau of Investigation, does not influence the agency’s probe.

However, senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for West Bengal, noted that the plea was not about the investigative agency’s autonomy but its jurisdiction to investigate cases once the general consent has been withdrawn.

“It is one thing to say that the CBI’s superintendence is with the CVC [Central Vigilance Commission],” Sibal added. “But it’s quite a different thing to say that the CBI has nothing to do with Union government. Of course it does, it was created by the government’s notification.”

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CBI probe in Bengal

In West Bengal, the Central Bureau of Investigation has been looking into several cases including the 2016 Narada bribery case in connection with which two state ministers, Firhad Hakim and Subrata Mukherjee, along with two former ministers Madan Mitra and Sovan Chatterjee, were arrested in 2021.

In July, former state minister Partha Chatterjee was arrested in connection with the alleged School Service Commission staff recruitment scam.

The agency has also questioned the wife of Abhishek Banerjee, the Trinamool Congress’ Parliament member and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew as well as political heir in the alleged coal pilferage scam case.

In August, the Central Bureau of Investigation had arrested Anubrata Mondal, the party’s Birbhum district chief, in a cattle smuggling case. Party leader and Halishahar municipality chairman Raju Sahani was arrested in a chit fund scam case in September. In January, the organisation said it was investigating Mondal’s alleged complicity in the 2022 Bogtui massacre in which 10 people were killed.