Former Bengal governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi calls CBI ‘department of dirty tricks’, RIL a parallel state
Gandhi’s remarks came while he delivered the 15th D P Kohli Memorial Lecture for CBI on “Eclipse at Noon: Shadows Over India’s Conscience” with nearly 3000 officers of the agency in the audience.
“It (CBI) is seen as the government’s hatchet, rather than honesty’s ally. It is often called DDT — meaning not the dichloro diphenyl trichloroethane, the colourless, tasteless, odourless insecticide it should be, but the department of dirty tricks,” said Gandhi.
Named after one of its chiefs, the lecture organized by the CBI every year is among the important events on the calendar of Delhi’s power elite. However, few among the hosts would have anticipated the candid criticism they were subjected to by Gandhi who, undeterred by the hospitality, forthrightly highlighted all the perceived shortcomings — susceptibility to political pressure to overreach in cases involving senior bureaucrats — which have dulled the lustre of the agency.
A former bureaucrat himself, Gandhi echoed the recent criticism of the agency for its cases against some senior civil servants. “There is justified criticism of CBI highhandedness and lack of sensitivity to loss of reputation of senior members of the bureaucracy against whom needless inquiries can get initiated … there is a temptation to bring down reputation of civil servants through unethical leaks to the media in real time during the course of the investigation,” he said. “This is despicable.”
He advised the CBI director and its officers not to get swayed by sensationalism and that they should resist the temptation of ‘leaks’. He said at times the CBI is used as a tool to force civil servants to fall in line. “No political party is a saint in this matter. But the CBI cannot afford to be complicit in this capriciousness. It must resist the unethical overtures,” he said.
Gandhi’s comments have come against the backdrop of CBI’s controversial decisions to launch preliminary enquiries against former SEBI chief C B Bhave and former SEBI full-time member K M Abraham, and lodge an FIR against former coal secretary PC Parakh .
Bhave has demanded an apology from CBI if the enquiry ends in a closure while Parakh has lashed out at the agency.
If Gandhi took him by surprise, CBI director Ranjit Sinha did not show it. He described Gandhi’s speech as “scintillating”. “I always welcome healthy criticism. What Mr Gandhi has said is an opinion. We have taken it in the right spirit,” said Sinha.
In his 45-minute speech, Gandhi advised CBI officers to say no to “in-service lollipops or a post-retirement cookie”. “The CBI director should be a phenomenal instrument, not a self-operating robot. He and his bureau should be guardians of the law, never a law upon themselves,” said the 69-year-old former bureaucrat, who is now chairman of Indian Institute of Advance Studies (IIAS).
Gandhi also opposed the decision to keep CBI outside the purview of RTI Act. “This is a great pity. The CBI is about investigations into corruption and certain crimes. It is not security or intelligence agency,” he said.
He favoured a “spectacularly autonomous” and not “sensationally autonomous” CBI. “I would like the CBI not to be under the government for then it would have no autonomy, but I would like it to be accountable to the Republic … I would like the CBI to be under the Lok Pal, just as the Army is under the defence minister … the Director of the CBI, like an Army or Air Force or Navy Chief, should be totally independent professionally but not a loose cannon,” he said.
Gandhi also targted the Reliance Industries, dubbing it a “parallel state” that exercised prower brazenly over natural and financial resources.
“We used to talk of black money as a parallel economy and so it continues to be. But Reliance is a parallel State. I do not know of any country where one single firm exercises such power so brazenly, over the natural resources, financial resources, professional resources and, ultimately, over human resources as the company of the Ambanis,” said Gandhi.
“From (B R) Ambedkar who spoke of economic democracy to Ambani who represents a techno-commercial monopoly of unprecedented scale, is a far cry indeed,” he said.
Talking about the economic health of the country, Gandhi said the economy had seen some phenomenal successes with many homeless getting houses and other items of necessity. “Our economy is startling if you do not want to see its other side. If you see that side, you will see it is schizophrenic. Corporate greed has crossed all bounds, as has corporate tastelessness,” he added.