Thursday, July 23, 2020

CBI Inquiry Demands; an opportunity to set the records straight?

July 23, 2020, 1:44 PM IST  in The WriteClick | India | TOI

The central Bureau of Investigation has been in the news more often than not as a political punching bag, usually referred to, by opposition parties as the ruling party’s instrument that swings along the direction given by the Union Home Ministry. In June 2013, a prominent leader of the BJP Mr. Arun Jaitley, then in opposition, had said, “The role of the CBI in framing charges against BJP leaders in Gujarat and Rajasthan has demonstrated that the CBI is acting in order to serve the dictates of the party in power.”

Not just political parties, the investigating agency had faced the wrath of the Apex Court too, which termed CBI as ‘a caged parrot’, in 2013. The court had rapped the CBI for sharing the status report on coal allocation scam probe with Law Minister Ashwani Kumar and officials of PMO and Coal Ministry. Again, in 2019, criticizing the CBI for its action in the case against former ICICI CEO Chanda Kochhar, Congress leader and former FM P Chidambaram tweeted, “Adventurism and megalomania have overtaken investigators!”

Thus far , in 2020, there are at least 5 strong demands for CBI inquiry. While the handling of the case by CBI might not be a sure shot to justice but the fact that demands for their involvement gain more incitation indicates, among others, the possible dwindling condition of trust many state police departments have and the increasing desire felt by many for a national investigating agency, undeterred by the coercions and obligations of local politics. The psychological assurance people yearn to experience- of having exhausted all possible means to justify their hypothesis associated with the cases could also be one main factor. Not forgetting the fact that either the State Government or High courts/Supreme court has to transfer the cases from states to the Investigating agency, let us look at some of the recent cases where CBI inquiry has been demanded;

1. Sushant Singh Rajput’s mysterious death

The ever increasing demand for CBI inquiry into Sushant Singh Rajput’s mysterious death has gained more momentum after BJP veteran Subramanian Swamy divulged his support for an inquiry by the central investigating agency. In his tweet on the 18th of July 2020, Mr. Swamy wrote, “The possibility of CBI investigation ordered by government in the SSR alleged suicide case has vastly increased. At the very minimum, the CBI can begin with investigation of the induced or assisted suicide crime under Sections 306 and 308 read with Section 120 A&B of IPC.” The official statement on SSR’s cause of death concluded by the hospital and endorsed by the Maharashtra Government is, “ death by asphyxiation.”

Taking many people by surprise, SSR’s Girlfriend Ms. Rhea Chakraborty tweeted on 18th of July, a month after the actor’s demise, a request for CBI inquiry to unearth the reasons for having taken such step, hinting at suicide being the cause of death, much to the dismay of the fans who have bombarded her with series of tweets for her conclusion on the cause of death. These new developments have refuelled the millions of fans who have been demanding CBI probe for the last many days. Irrespective of Maharashtra Government officials’ unrelenting stance , we might see the case being transferred to the premiere investigating agency in the larger public interest to have a noble fore-closure on the issue.

2. BJP MLA alleged suicide in West Bengal

The death of a BJP MLA in Bengal reportedly by suicide as per the state police official statement has led the BJP Bengal unit to demand CBI probe into the incident. The state BJP unit has made open their suspicions of the involvement of rival politicians in the death of the legislator. Adding weight to the demand for the inquiry, the West Bengal Governor too had tweeted, “Political violence and vendetta @MamataOfficial shows no signs of abating. Death of Debendra Nath Roy, Hemtabad MLA-Uttar Dinajpur District, raises serious issues including allegations of murder. Need for thorough impartial probe to unravel truth and blunt political violence.” Superintendent of police, North Dinajpur District, Sumit Kumar, while briefing on the progress of the inquiry has said, “One person Niloy Singha, mentioned in the suicide note has been arrested. Interrogations are being done. Prima facie it is a case of suicide. We have registered a case u/s 34 and 302 of IPC which includes murder also. No stone will be left unturned in the case.”

3. Killing of Gangster Prakash Dubey

Debates on custodial death took a new turn after the death of wanted gangster Prakash Dubey. Many human rights activists have pointed out the possible extra-judicial killing of the gangster and his aides and have sought CBI inquiry into the incident. In fact, a few have filed PIL at the supreme court requesting the apex court to initiate an inquiry over the whole incident. A Times of India report titled, “Former senior cops outraged..” has at least 3 former DGP of states terming the nature of death as an “incident unfortunate, outrageous, untenable in a civilised society” and called for an inquiry into the incident.

According to a Press Trust of India report, “A bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde said it may consider appointing a committee headed by a former judge to inquire into the encounters of Dubey, his aides as well as the killing of eight Uttar Pradesh policemen by the gangster.” The UP police statement on the death states that Gangster Vikas Dubey was shot dead Friday by police when he was trying to flee after the car carrying him from Ujjain overturned on an isolated stretch of the highway on the outskirts of the city. The statement added that the gangster snatched a pistol from one of the policemen injured in the accident and was shot when he opened fire while trying to flee. Six policemen, including two from the Special Task Force, were hurt in the accident and the exchange of fire around 6 am.

4. Phone tapping allegation in Rajasthan

Post the allegation on the Rajasthan state Government’s tapping of the state legislators to foil another toppling of Congress Government amidst Mr. Pilot’s rebellious acts, the BjP Rajasthan unit has been demanding a CBI probe into the incident. A day after Congress cited some audio clips to accuse a few saffron party leaders, including Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, of conspiring to topple the Ashok Gehlot government in the state, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra hit back at the Congress. According to PTI report, Patra asked at a Press Conference, “These are serious questions that we want to ask the Congress high command and Ashok Gehlot. Was phone tapping done? Assuming that you&’ve tapped phones, was the SOP followed? Did the Congress government in Rajasthan use unconstitutional ways to save themselves when they found themselves cornered?”

5. Allegation of State cover up on Drug Mafias in Manipur

The arrest of an accused drug-lord Mr. Lunkhosei Zou has triggered a series of allegations, affidavits and counter-affidavits involving the investigating officer Ms. Thounaojam Brinda Addl. SP and the Government of Manipur. The present accusation and counter-accusation in and outside the court have many of the people left wondering whom to give credence to. If there are sections of people who subscribe the official version of the Government that the CM and his party is leaving no stone unturned in their efforts to curb drug menace, there are equal, if not more number of the public who share their solidarity with the police officer’s claim that a high-level hand is at play to shield the accused drug-lord Mr. Lunkhosei @Sesei and the unholy nexus prevailing in the state. Caught in between are some, who find both the narratives of the two sides convincing enough.

Interestingly, the Manipur Youth Congress have called for CBI inquiry into the entire events. The development captures the attention of most people considering the fact that it is not a run-of-the-hill incident when an opposition party to the central Government had demanded CBI inquiry into a case. The case being sub- judice and the likelihood of the accused being put away will want many to doubt the need for CBI inquiry. But if the allegations submitted by Ms, Brinda in her counter-affidavit to the Manipur High court in a court contempt case, wherein the Investigating officer has vented our her displeasure for granting bail to accused Mr. Lunkhosei, is to be relied upon, the alleged nexus between politicians and drug-lords could be investigated for the larger good of the public. The only question is- will the Manipur High court take cognizance of the gravity of the allegation?

Final Judgement

It is yet to be ascertained if the demands for CBI inquiry into the incidents mentioned above will eventually see the actual hand-over of the cases to the investigating agency. Nevertheless, the newfound love for CBI allows, if given a kick at the cat, the investigating agency to put the records straight once and for all that the CBI, though having administrative allegiance to the home ministry has what it takes- to rise above political vendetta and shine as an agency of truth and justice. The question however remains; will CBI be given the responsibility? Or more importantly, can CBI live up to its standards, if given the onus? We sincerely hope so.

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