People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 09

February 28, 2010


               A Disputed Verdict by the Supreme Court

Gautam Das


A FIVE member Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court headed by the Chief Justice of India in a judgement last week asserted that the Supreme Court or a High Court can suo moto ask the CBI to investigate any case irrespective of the permission from the concerned state government. The Supreme Court said for the protection of the democratic rights guaranteed by the Constitution, the Supreme Court or the High Court can ask the CBI to directly investigate any case of national or international importance.

This verdict of the Supreme Court has generated a serious debate. According to the Constitution, law and order is a state subject. Hence will it be proper for a High Court or the Supreme Court to, in general, directly order a central investigating agency to investigate a case without consulting the elected state government? Will such a blanket power not be a serious encroachment on the rights of the states?

The federal structure of our country provides for investigating agencies both at the state and central level. Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is the central investigating agency while the Crime Investigation Department (CID) works as the special investigating agency of the state governments. With economic liberalisation and globalisation, criminal activities have increased manifold. The organised international criminal syndicates are engaged in different forms of crimes, making use of the advances in the field of information technology. The central and state investigating agencies, despite using state of the art technologies and striving hard, are finding it very diffcult to expose the main criminals and bring them to justice. There are, however, some occasional successes too and in this the success rate of CID is higher than that of CBI.




The logic behind this verdict of the Supreme Court on a sensitive issue of the centre-state relations is virtually undermining the state investigating agencies. The notion that the CBI alone can trace out all the criminal gangs and is capable of reaching them to a logical solution is far from reality.

A few cases from Tripura can be considered as instances. The CBI was entrusted with the 1991 murder case of Shyamhari Sharma, a BJP candidate in an assembly bye-election. Even after almost two decades, the case has not yet been solved. Not a single criminal could be traced or arrested till date. In the murder cases of  Congress MLA Bhola Saha and  Youth Congress leader Debal Deb too, the CBI failed to make any headway. In another case of murder of Shukram Debbarma, the then SDM of Sadar subdivision, the utter failure of the CBI was seen when the case was closed due to lack of progress. The people of Tripura have lost their faith in CBI. On the other hand, the CID of the state police has successfully investigated  and exposed the entire conspiracy behind the murder of Mantu Das, a leader of the Congress party, and most of the criminals have been arrested. There are many more such instances of successes of the CID in the state of Tripura as also in other states.

Similar is the case of burglary of the Nobel prize of Rabindranath Tagore from Shantiniketan that was handed over to the CBI by the Kolkata High Court. After so many years, failing to make any headway in the case, the CBI has finally recommended the closure of the case to the judiciary. In Singur, the CBI implicated a CPI(M) leader in a politically motivated case. Later, the investigating officer of that case was caught red-handed while accepting bribes and is now behind the bars.




The neutrality of CBI as an investigating agency is not beyond doubt. It had appealed to the court to withdraw the case against Ottavio Quattrocchi, the main accused in the multi-crore Bofors scam. Even after 22 years, the CBI has failed to make any progress in this particular case. It may be recalled the Swedish radio itself broke the news that the AB Bofors had paid huge kickbacks to the Indian politicians and their agents to clinch the deal of selling Howitzer canons to India. No one can deny that the CBI functions according to the directions of the ruling party at the centre. Hence the opinion flashed in the newspapers: CBI is nothing but Congress Bureau of Investigation!

Another point to note is that the IPS cadre police officers are working in both the CBI and the state CIDs. All of them belong to the same all India service and are equally trained. Then what is the logic behind differentiating between the two agencies and giving  CBI a place of superiority? Does it not amount to belittling the state CIDs? Does it not amount to questioning the neutrality and integrity of the CID officers? The Constitutional bench has delivered its verdict on an important constitutional question, but were the states served with any notice to place their point of view before the Supreme Court? Was is not worth giving a hearing to the views of the states?

To maintain the balance of power between the centre and the states, to safeguard the rights of the states, and to safeguard the independence and prestige of the state-level investigating agencies, the aforesaid verdict of the Supreme Court needs to be revisited!