We have known for quite a while that all’s not well with the CBI. Our intrepid media has let the world know of the strife between the top two officials of the agency. Nobody, not even its ardent detractors, had expected things to get this murky. A case has been lodged against the CBI’s No. 2, who, in turn, has sent complaints alleging malpractices by his boss to the Central Vigilance Commission and the PMO. The government could have nipped the problem in the bud, but allowed it to fester. Now the warring chieftains have been sent on leave, and the Supreme Court shall decide whether the director’s removal is ultra vires or not. Can you believe that the offices of the top two have been sealed? This is undoubtedly the lowest point in the CBI’s history, a nadir it would take years to recover from. There has already been a search and an arrest, and no one knows which way the wind shall blow in the days ahead. Given the toxic atmosphere of internecine warfare, matters could get even more sordid. What is baffling is why the two seniormost IPS officers could not sit together and resolve their differences right in the beginning. If they couldn’t do it, why couldn’t the government step in and save the law enforcement agency from sliding into this calamitous situation?
These tragic developments notwithstanding, the CBI has been India’s premier investigation agency since its inception. When the state Crime Branch and CID failed to deliver on a case, state governments would transfer the case to the CBI. If a court felt a case had been shoddily investigated, it would order its transfer to the CBI. When malfeasance of huge amounts of public money such as the Harshad Mehta case, the UTI scam, the Telgi stamp paper case and, more recently, the Punjab National Bank fraud came to light, the country would turn to the CBI. And the agency mostly did not belie the country’s faith in it.