When in the Opposition, BJP leaders, including current Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union finance minister Arun Jaitley, had belittled it as the ‘Congress Bureau of Investigation’. The Supreme Court famously likened it to a ‘caged parrot’, and former Bengal governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi coined the acronym ddt— Department of Dirty Tricks—to indicate that the CBI operated at the behest of the government of the day. Irony reigned when these themes got a fresh airing as the country’s leading investigative agency plunged headfirst into a welter of cases last week. Among them:
- A 40-member team headed by a joint director landed in Bhopal to take over the politically sensitive Vyapam case, allegedly involving senior members of the RSS and the BJP, apart from Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and his family.
- In Mumbai, three CBI teams raided the residence and office of activist Teesta Setalvad, who has filed a number of cases pertaining to the Gujarat riots of 2002 when Modi was chief minister.
- Veteran journalist Avirook Sen released a book, Aarushi, on the sensational murder case in which he writes that a CBI investigator manipulated evidence and also produced a transcript in court that differed substantially from a recorded conversation.
- A Supreme Court bench formed a panel to inquire into the propriety of retired CBI director Ranjit Sinha meeting some of the accused in the 2G case at his residence on 2, Janpath, in New Delhi.
Despite the promptness with which the CBI filed a series of FIRs in the Vyapam case shortly after arriving in the MP capital, speculation is rife whether, based on its past record, the CBI will merely follow in the footsteps of the local investigators and arrest the small fry while the rich and powerful are shielded from scrutiny. Everytime there is a case involving politicians, there is inevitably a chorus to entrust it to the CBI. (Or perhaps not always. Last year, there was demand for a CBI inquiry when a four-year-old child was locked up in a kennel by a private school in Kerala.) Union minister Gopinath Munde died last year in a tragic if unavoidable road accident, but it did not stop supporters from demanding a CBI inquiry into the ‘conspiracy’. The CBI is the counterpart of America’s Federal Bureau of Investigation but without its track record, resources or strictly apolitical approach.