The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is nothing more than a caged parrot, the Madras High Court orally observed on Monday, the second such instance where a court of law has taken a dim view of the premier investigating agency.
The Court added that while the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) is doing some excellent work, it is also subject to orders of political masters.
“We have an SFIO, which does excellent work, but subject to orders of political masters… We have a CBI, which is not anything more than a caged parrot… What is the brief of the ED? Some of the agencies… have excellent personnel,” Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee remarked.
The Court was hearing a plea raising concern that the Economics Offences Wing (EOW), Tamil Nadu is not manned by officers sufficiently trained to handle the Franklin Templeton case when the hearing briefly veered to a discussion on the capabilities of investigation agencies such as the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
In view of a submission that the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has also registered a case against Franklin Templeton for alleged embezzlement, the Court on Monday posed questions on the qualifications of ED officers as well.
Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee orally recalled how he has encountered concerns of inept officers in other cases involving fraudulent schemes.
“I pulled my hair off… (in cases involving) a lot of schemes, fraudulent schemes. I wrote over and over that this is blood money, drug money… it was only much later that the Indian Express wrote an article, following which the RBI, ED woke up to and saw how this is drug money and terror money has been changing hands… after a point of time, it has completely dried up,” he said.
He went on to remark ask “what is the brief of the ED? Some of the agencies… have excellent personnel.”
The Court was told by advocate Vaibhav R Venkatesh that the ED is now headed by an IRS officer, because the Union Home Ministry has realised that there are technical aspects to ED cases.
The matter will be heard next in April 19, when the State is expected to file a report suggesting measures to ensure that there is some specialisation is introduced when it comes to the officers manning the EOW.
Before adjourning the matter, the Court has also added both the ED and the Securities Exchange Board of India (SEBI) as parties to the case, while making pertinent oral observations on the need to ensure that there is no parallel investigation in the case.
“We do not want parallel agencies.. parallel agencies sometimes cut into each other, number 1. Number 2, which is the more important, practical aspect – we subject the accused to two sets of hounds… investors will get nothing. There is an Article 14 principle there also because they should be subject to only one set of hounds. Ultimately, whatever we say and do, investors will be taken for a ride,” Chief Justice Banerjee said.
In 2013, the Supreme Court, while hearing the Coal scam case, had remarked that the CBI is a caged parrot acting at the behest of political masters.