How the CBI [Police] is compromised?

Published: January 12, 2019 - 19:20

The ongoing saga of CBI has not really unearthed significant insight into ways the agency is compromised. The media discourse suggests that the ruling party [largely PM and his associates] try to choose a Director who follows their diktats. All the efforts by the Supreme Court and reformers is thus aimed at ensuring fair selection to this important post. There is little doubt that the Director [and any Chief of police] play a significant role in the administration of the organization. The control over resources, investigation and power of final decision enables the Director to control major functions of the agency. However, it will be wrong to conclude that the Director is all powerful and or that he [no she so far] can bend the agency to his wishes. There are hundreds of investigators, prosecutors and intervening supervisors who collect the evidence, shape the prosecution and execute the investigation efforts. The Director sees the end product, all the evidence and analysis and is left to take the final decision. Further, this happens only in important cases for other senior officers, Special Director for instance, do have the power to take final decisions in some cases too.


At this final stage, the Director has to be audacious to go against the evidence collected by his investigators. At best, he can delay and ask for second opinion but will burn his hands if the evidence is brazenly cast away. Since CBI case files are not open for external scrutiny, we do not know but can safely assume that very few Directors would have deliberately scuttled an investigation. Before this final stage, the Director can deny or add resources to an ongoing investigation and thus affect the process to some extent. He has powers to start an inquiry and register a case based on questionable information. For example, the St. Kitts case against VP Singh was deliberately pursued without any basis. But again, such instances fortunately remain small.


So how is the CBI compromised? It is done in the same manner as other agencies and ministries of the government. Not only are there middle men and lobbyists operating in the defense sector that is recently highlighted by the arrest of Christian Michel, but they are everywhere, particularly in Delhi. They are business people, serving or retired officials, activists, journalists, religious preachers and come from every profession. Every day in Delhi you will find them visiting offices, calling over phone, hosting dinner, birthday parties and collecting or distributing money. They are the wheeler and dealers who convey subtle or direct demands, bargain and play an important role in decision making. Delhi is not only the capital of the country but also of all brokers and wheeler-dealers.


We get some evidence about the existence of peddlers from the gate entry diary of Ranjit Sinha, former CBI Director facing inquiry, that listed these brokers visiting him for influencing various cases. A number of middle-men have also been arrested in various cases, suggesting existence of such brokers. However, their numbers are so large and they are found in so many places that they cannot be obliterated. They are not only business people but also those who are well-connected through family, friendship and government service. A good number are retired officers, journalists, political upstarts, doctors, activists or those who interacted with the establishment in other capacities. They throw big parties or attend them which are generally funded by business houses. The occasion could be festivals, birthdays and marriages though a reason is not always necessary. The invited officers and politicians will travel in taxis or borrowed cars to limit tracking. The local officials, particularly the SHO generally provide ‘security’ to ensure that unwanted folks do not intrude into the space. Not only cases and government functions are discussed and bargained but also political conspiracies and shenanigans.  


Interestingly, no PM, CM or minister and even any elected representative directly tells an officer what to do. This does get communicated through compliant officers in the guise of a casual comment, command or through intimidation. ‘Sir is very angry. You better not do this’ will be the message sent across by some colleague in the organization or ‘well-wisher’. Seasoned officers begin to comprehend these cues early in their career and act accordingly. There is little reason to say something directly, for the officer understands what will please the politician or the senior officer and follow suit without waiting to be stated. The delay in the investigation of Bofors, assets of Mulayam Singh Yadav and Jayalalitha could happen because the investigators comprehended the ‘desires’ of the top political leadership. Subtle hints and suggestions including posting of compliant officers as investigators additionally secured the objectives.


Why do officers fall prey to these middle-men? For obvious reasons! Money, power, better pastures and post-retirement benefits. For officers, this reputation is made early in the career and is known before the officer assumes the office in Delhi. Those with clean image, and particularly those who will not let others ‘eat’ are discarded well before they can ‘damage’ the system. The proportion of clean officers, who function within the ambit of the law fortunately remains satisfactory. They have to be tolerated since they the number of inconsequential posts remains limited and they cannot be dumped indefinitely. Those who are brave enough to stand up against the brokers face extraordinary hurdles, ostracism and even threats to life. Fortunately, there are officers who still persist and do not compromise. However, they are in a minority now and a vanishing tribe.


While it is necessary that the senior officers, particularly the Chiefs be selected by a transparent and appropriate process and given the independence to operate professionally, this by itself is insufficient. Criminology teaches that rather than focusing upon the person it is better to understand the situation that facilitate crimes. Situational factors, such as place and time of parties, attendees, and those building contacts with officers need to be examined and put under surveillance. Situational prevention will provide a stronger and lasting bulwark against CBI [and other wings of bureaucracy] being compromised than trying to shield a Director from his political masters.



A former IPS, and professor at Indiana University- Bloomington

Read more stories by Dr. Arvind Verma