Synopsis: The Court has noted that, through its own recruitment process, specially trained officers should be recruited by the CBI in order to live up to its name as a premier investigating agency.
On Tuesday, the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court expressed concern that several cases handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) ended in acquittal, while challenging the recruitment methods adopted by the investigation agency.
The Bench of Justices N Kirubakaran and B Pugalendhi noted in its order that the reasons for the acquittal rates are not known in the CBI cases. However, it proceeded to note that it is unaware if the CBI is recruiting its officers independently or whether it is depending on officers deputed from other forces.
In this case, the Court observed that while investigating serious white-collar crimes, the CBI should not rely on deputations because deputy State Police/CSF/CRPF officers might not be properly trained in dealing with such cases.
The Court noted that, through its own recruitment process, specially trained officers should be recruited by the CBI in order to live up to its name as a premier investigating agency.
CBI officers should have relevant qualifications, such as ACS, ICWA or CA training, to investigate white-collar crimes, especially bank-related or financial crimes. The Court claimed that otherwise the very object of the investigation will be defeated.
In its order, the Bench also asked the Centre to respond as to whether the number of CBI officers should be increased because in serious cases, there has always been a clamour for a CBI investigation. The Court observed that since the CBI had acquired the credibility of the Premier Investigation Agency, further cases could be investigated in the event of an increase in its operational strength.
ASG Victoria Gowri, who appeared for the Centre, told the Court that one stream of CBI recruitment is performed by the Centre through the Combined Graduate Level Examination, a Staff Selection Committee. She added that if some time was given, further details on the recruitment process could be presented before the Court.
The Court therefore adjourned the matter until Monday and ordered the Centre to respond to different queries, including the following:
• Does CBI recruit its employees specifically for its investigation team independently or through an agency?
• Does the CBI depend exclusively on police officers from agencies such as the State Police, CSF and CRPF to be deputised?
• What is the CBI’s strength, particularly its investigation team?
• Why not raise the number of investigating officers, as more cases are referred to the CBI?
• Why not the CBI recruit candidates with expertise such as CA, ICWA, ACF, etc. Are they concerned with cases of bank fraud?
• In the last 20 years, how many cases have been referred to the CBI?
• What is the status of the cases there?
• How many cases have resulted in conviction/acquittal?
• What is the conviction rate?
• Why not raise the source of capital to CBI as it is seen that there are not ample resources for CBI?
The Union Home Affairs Ministry has been made party to the case by the Court.
After a plea for CBI investigation in a case was opposed by the Assistant Solicitor General on the ground that the agency did not have adequate resources to examine every case, the Court was compelled to take up the issue.
In this regard, in State West Bengal and ors v. Committee for protection of Democratic rights, West Bengal, ASG Victoria Gowri cited the 2010 full bench judgement of the Supreme Court. In this case, the supreme court warned that the CBI investigations should be ordered “sparingly, cautiously and in extraordinary cases” by the courts, or that the CBI would be “flooded with a large number of cases and limited resources” and in the end, would lose its credibility because it was unable to carry out adequate investigations.
Ultimately, the High Court turned down the prayer made in the instant case for a CBI investigation on the State’s evaluation of the progress of the Economic Offences Wing in the case.
The case concerned a financial scam involving the failure to return deposits of approximately Rs 300 crores. The EOW has been urged by the Bench to promptly carry out its investigation and file a charge sheet at the earliest.
However, for the State, Additional Advocate General Sricharan Rangarajan appeared.