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CBI Chief welcomes moves to free agency from external influence

CBI Chief welcomes moves to free agency from external influence

New Delhi: As a high-powered Group of Ministers (GoM) gets down to work on how to free the CBI from external influence, the agency's Director Ranjit Sinha cautioned on Wednesday that such welcome moves should go hand-in-hand with steps to ensure that it does not become a "rogue organisation".

Sinha welcomed the Supreme Court's directive to the Union Government to come out with a legislation by July 10 to insulate the CBI from "external influence".

It would do a lot of good if there is no interference in investigations conducted by the agency, he said.

But he has a word of caution -- "in a democratic set up, no organization can be made totally independent as it entails the risk of turning into a rogue organization".

Sinha, who will give his inputs to the GoM headed by Finance Minister P Chidambaram, listed options to insulate the CBI from external interefrence -- superintendence by Parliament or Central Vigilance Commission(CVC) or the National Human Rights Commission(NHRC), any of which could oversee the functioning of the agency.

"It will be well for the organization if it is accredited to a body which will oversee its functioning but at the same time not interfere in its criminal investigation. We can have a look at functioning of such organisations in some of the western democracies. We can adopt any such model," he said without referring to any country or organisation.

On being asked what should be done to insulate CBI from external pressure including political interference, Sinha said "it is for the government to decide. We will give our inputs to the body which the government prepares to address the issue. They (Government) have to take a call on the issue."

The apex court had on May 6 asked the government to make an effort to come out with a law before July 10 to insulate CBI from external influence and intrusion.

A bench headed by Justice R M Lodha had said, "We would like the law to be in place before the next date of hearing on July 10. We know that Parliament will not be in session, but there are ways to do it".

In the wake of this direction, the Government announced a Group of Ministers(GoM) headed by the Finance Minister which will work out a mechanism to insulate the CBI from political interference and draft a law and also an affidavit to be submitted to the Supreme Court.

Chidambaram has the experience of studying functioning of various probe agencies across the world in connection with his project for setting up the National Counter Terrorism Centre during his tenure as Home Minister.

About his reported statement that several people figuring in investigations used to call him, Sinha said with a smile "Oh! Many people used to call me from every walk of life. I don't mind receiving calls because some of these calls did actually help in some of the cases."

When pressed further about who used to call, he said "well about who calls, let's not take any names."

About the Supreme Court's direction that any investigation or status report should not be shared with the agency's advocates or lawyers, Sinha said "we are examining the Supreme Court order and may appeal to the same bench on the next date of hearing in July.

"Till then we can show nothing about any case to our legal officers. Legal branch is a part and parcel of the investigation process."

Asked whether he finds himself as a catalyst to liberate CBI from political interference, Sinha said, "there has been misconception in public at large regarding the functioning of the CBI. The Supreme Court has put it in a right perspective about the functioning of the CBI in the government hierarchy and now we are optimistic that the apex court will issue some clarity about the relations that the CBI should have with the Government.

About being a catalyst, he said, "it's just a coincidence that I happen to be the Director of the CBI at this time when these issues have come up which will definitely bring about some changes that will make the CBI more efficient and enjoy more confidence of people."

On the remark made by Supreme Court that CBI was a "caged parrot" and that after this whenever he used to enter any party, people used to remark 'tota aa gaya (the parrot has come), Sinha laughed and said "I enjoyed the sarcastic remark. Now I have a good company of chicken also in such gatherings."

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