Bangalore International Centre had arranged a thought-provoking Panel Discussion on “CBI – Is it a Constitutional Body?” on Saturday, 11th January, 2014 at 6.30 PM at its auditorium. The panelists were Dr. R K Raghavan, Former Director, CBI, Dr. Aditya Sondhi, well-known Advocate of Karnataka High Court and Supreme Court of India. The discussion was moderated by Hon’ble Justice S RajendraBabu, Former Chief Justice of India.
The Guwahati High Court on 6th November, 2013 has quashed the Union Home Ministry resolution by which the Central Bureau of Investigation was constituted way back in 1963. The court held that the CBI was neither an organ nor part of the Delhi Special Police Establishment and thus could not be treated as a “police force” constituted under the DSPE Act.
This highly significant judgment has shaken the foundation of CBI which has been the primary investigative agency of the Central Government and several high-profile cases investigated by the CBI are currently before various courts of Law. In a major relief to the Central Government, the Supreme Court of India has stayed the operation of the order. However, the issue remains to be decided.
An eminent practitioner of law and a distinguished former Director of the CBI discussed the various facets of the Guwahati High Court’s landmark verdict.
In his opening remarks, Hon. Justice RajendraBabu referred to the chaos which may result in case the decision of the Guwahati High Court is upheld in the Apex Court and felt that the Apex Court would take the total picture under consideration while interpreting the constitutional provisions invoked by the CBI in support of their contentions regarding the validity of their existence and activities.
In a detailed power-point presentation Dr. Raghavan traced the historical evolution of CBI and suggested that a constructive interpretation of the constitutional provisions and the DSPE Act would show that CBI is indeed a part of Special Police Establishment, with only a change in nomenclature. He also felt that the Amicus Curie in the instant case had perhaps taken a too technical view. In a powerful rejoinder, Dr. AdityaSondhi quoted extensively from the office notes of the file in which the establishment of the CBI was considered by the Union Home Ministry to establish that the Central Government was fully aware that CBI could not be established as a Police Force without the consent of the states, nor could it be considered as one and the same with the Special Police Establishment. Dr. Sondhi further pointed out that the Government had clearly visualized that the consent of the states would need to be obtained, but did not follow it up at all. He also stressed that the Guwahati High Court judgment was not only technically sound, but also extremely relevant in the context of the federal structure of the constitution and centre-state relationships.
The potentially volatile aspects of the judgment came out in sharp focus during the interactive session in which several issues were clarified by both Dr. Raghavan and Dr. AdityaSondhi. It was an evening of extremely enjoyable cerebral exchanges between the audience and the panelists.