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Don’t question policy, Chidambaram tells CBI

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New Delhi – Describing the CBI as a “caged bird or the Congress Bureau of Investigation” is incorrect, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said Tuesday, noting the investigative agency must confine itself to policing and not question the laid out policy.

Speaking at the Central Bureau of Investigation’s (CBI) international conference on ‘Evolving Common Strategies to Combat Corruption and Crime’, Chidambaram cautioned the investigating agency to respect the line that divides policy making and policing.

Chidambaram’s remarks came a day after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said it was not proper for probe agencies to sit in judgement over a policy decision taken in good faith.

Chidamb! aram also differed with the Supreme Court’s observations in May this year, describing the CBI as a “caged parrot”.

He said investigating agencies, including the CBI, should be constructed in new India on pillars of “clearly defined objectives, precisely enumerated powers and carefully designed accountability mechanisms”.

Chidambaram said an offence is committed when a prescribed rule of conduct is violated and if there is no prescribed rule or its violation, there is no offence.

“It is not the business of the investigative agency to lay down a rule of conduct; nor is it the business of the investigating agency to presume a rule of conduct,” the former home minister said.

Chidambaram said the investigative agency must confine itself to the question whether there has been a violation of a laid-down rule of conduct.

“Even where a rule has been prescribed, there is a policy behind that rule. It is not the business of the investigative agency t! o question the wisdom of that policy or to suggest a different policy t! hat would be better in the view of the investigating agency,” he said.

Last month, the Prime Minister’s Office came under the lens after the CBI filed a fresh set of charges on the coal allocation case, this time finding fault with the actions of then coal secretary P.C. Parakh in allocating some blocks to private player Hindalco.

Both Parakh and the Prime Minister’s Office clarified later that the decision on the award of coal block to Hindalco, taken in 2004-05, was fair and taken in good faith and no ulterior motive was required to be attributed on the matter.

Chidambaram also rejected allegations of the central government’s interference in the investigative agency’s working.

“There are several myths about the CBI, ranging from the celebrated epithet ‘caged bird’ to the abusive nomenclature ‘Congress Bureau of Investigation’. None of the descriptions is correct or even well meaning,” said Chidambaram.

“Some myths are carefully fostered ! and propagated in order to serve an immediate or narrow self-interest.”

“In lighter vain, I may say that sometimes the CBI itself pretends to be a helpless victim when it pleads for powers and greater autonomy,” he said.

Lauding the work of CBI, Chidambaram said: “In my view, the CBI is as good an investigation organisation as any other in the world. We are proud of the achievements of the CBI.”

In May this year, the Supreme Court termed the CBI a “caged parrot” that “speaks in its master’s voice” in a case related to the irregularities in the coal block allocation.

Chidambaram said the CBI has the power to investigate a number of offences that pertain to what can be broadly described as the financial sector.

The finance minister listed the economic offences as being cases involving interest of the central government and public sector units, breaches of import and export control orders and serious cases of fraud, cheating and embezzlement ! relating to public joint stock companies.

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