The new director of CBI has asked all his officers to play by the rule book. This is what it should be. The bureaucracy should be neutral i.e., without any bias and go by rulebook only.
In a democratic set-up, parliamentarians are elected by the citizens and they are responsible for making laws and policies; while bureaucrats are responsible for implementation of the same laws and policies.
Indira Gandhi and her colleagues could not appreciate the value of efficient and impartial civil services. They did precious little to check deteriorating standards of the service. The political complexion of the nation was reflected in the performance of civil services and its capacity to work impartially without any fear or favour.
During 1969 to 1974 great changes occurred in the character of the civil services: personality cult was promoted. The officers were not expected to be as loyal to the Constitution, as they had to be to their ministers. Mrs Gandhi desired the bureaucracy to be completely committed to the ruling party. On a sustained and systematic basis, the process of committed bureaucracy flourished, thus undermining the integrity, values, ethos and confidence of the service. Officers were supposed to be the servicemen to carry out the orders of political bosses.
The simplest of the arm-twisting measures, which politicians took in their hands, was to take the power of transfers, posting, and extensions. It placed the officers at the receiving end. Political patronage gave encouragement to corrupt and ambitious officials.
In order to divert public attention from real issues, abstract issues like social justice, socialism, secularism, communal-ism were floated in the political world. The logic of economics and administrative acumen were subordinated to the logic of politics.
Meanwhile, tampering with the institutions of governance was also undertaken. The concept of ‘committed’ bureaucracy was widely broadcast to mean that the officers running the administration have to be totally subservient to the dictates of those in power even in matters which undermined the system. Side by side the judiciary was also sought to be made subservient by means of browbeating—for instance, the superseding of senior judges in the matter of appointment of the Chief Justice in 1973 which was widely resented.
When Prime Minister Narendra Modi talked of “minimum government, maximum governance”, he had in mind the recalcitrant bureaucracy which does not serve the people but rules over them. Nitin Gadkari, Union minister for road transport and highways, once rued that 265 projects worth Rs 75,000 crore were held up in the pipeline due to bureaucratic wrangling.
With Kolkata police commissioner Rajeev Kumar allegedly evading interrogation by CBI officers and participation of him and the DGP, West Bengal.in the Dharna led by Mamata Banerjee, the Centre has decided to seek a report from state chief secretary on the role of IPS officers in purportedly obstructing investigation by CBI and violating service conduct rules. The Union home ministry is the cadre-controlling authority of IPS officers in India. Further, Supreme Court directed Kumar’s interrogation in Shillong, a neutral territory and issued contempt notices against West Bengal’s top officials for their coercive action against CBI officers. All this show Bengal’s governance in poor light and that it is partisan and compromised. It is also true that there ought to be clear rules on the primary reporting authority for IAS and IPS officers in the context of the federal set-up in the country.
However, CBI also seem to have overplayed its cards. It should not have attempted to interrogate the Police Commissioner at Kolkata at his residence without the state’s formal concurrence. From the organisation’s point of view, it is therefore necessary to revamp the rules and procedure for strict compliance and to start afresh with a new set of unbiased leaders. This may help the process of rebuilding the CBI. We have earlier seen in CBI how their executives, despite 70 years of institutional know-how on due process and rule of law, subvert them for personal and or political gains. So much so that the government had to clamp down on the two of its senior-most officers and bring in a new director to set the matters right. It also seems necessary that the CBI – just like its counterpart in the US, the FBI — should now convert itself into a multidisciplinary corruption-fighting force with experts from diverse fields such as finance, banking, purchase, procurement, insurance and engineering.
The writer is a long standing commentator on contemporary issues.