Cage Parrot Turns Wild Vulture

By Sunil Dang

Over the last few columns, I have been consistently writing about the growing dissent among various autonomous bodies over mishandling and needless interference by the Central Government. The RBI and the CBI are recent additions to this list. Though, in the case of RBI, Governor Urjit Patel bowed down to the government pressure accepting ‘sovereign supremacy’ and, hence, in my view the RBI spat is now over. But, the way the civil war amongst top officers at the CBI has unfolded in last fortnight along with a mid-level officer Manish Sinha raising fingers towards the integrity of top officers like NSA Ajit Doval and MoS Hari Bhai Chaudhary — a close aide of Prime Minister Narendra Modi from Gujarat — it gives an impression that CBI officers are no longer ready to bow down to the wishes of the central government.

The Supreme Court has given another date for hearing of the CBI case, which I think needn’t to be speculated at this juncture. Whether Director Alok Verma would be re-instated or Rakesh Ashthana’s charges have any truth is best left on the shoulders of the top Indian Court. However, I would like to add one thing that the CBI, ED, Income Tax etc. are those institutions, which have been traditionally used by the central government as tools to demonize the opposition leaders. But today, ironically, these institutions rather demonizing the opposition have started to threaten the government itself — an indication of government’s losing control over these institutions.

The current spat has, at one level, quickly snowballed into an organisational crisis for the CBI. At another level, however, it also reflects a series of failures on the part of Government of India. The manners in which the events have unfolded indicate problems that go much beyond just factionalism. The CBI’s alleged politicization, serious charges against its various chiefs, it’s very poor conviction rate, its delays in carrying out timely investigation, not to mention its lack of core competence and domain knowledge, are indicative of a much more serious malaise.

In the face of numerous accusations and counter-accusations, Government of India, on the recommendations of the Chief Vigilance Commission (CVC), appears to have rightly decided to intervene. This should have been done much earlier. In fact, the way Alok Verma’s reply petition was leaked, which miffed the CJI Ranjan Gogoi, I am convinced that the CBI spat is going to hit the credibility of the CVC KV Chowdary. Pictures of CVC meeting businessman who has a controversial background have started to hit the social media. These pictures may be found doctored after some days, but will that be enough to re-establish the might which the CVC chair used to possess earlier?

In such a situation, the allegations labelled by Alok Verma against CVC KV Chowdary that “majority of the questions raised by the CVC have nothing to do with the probe as those questions are relate to post October 17 developments” has only raised more eyebrows.  This veiled allegation by the CBI Director has put India’s top court in a fix because the CVC is exercising these works under the guidance of a retired Supreme Court Judge appointed by the Supreme Court. Probably, in my opinion, this could have been one of the major reasons that miffed CJI Ranjan Gogoi and he reprimanded Alok Verma’s team of counsels citing, “You people don’t deserve Supreme Court’s hearing.”

So, it’s high time for the Indian government to stop the developments before the ‘Cage Parrot’ turns a wild vulture.