The public spat between Alok Verma and Rakesh Asthana is not doing any good to the CBI’s reputation
The Supreme Court once described the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) as a caged parrot, doing whatever its master, that is whoever led the Central Government at the time, wanted. Let alone cynics, there is no doubt even in the minds of the most committed political party cadre that the CBI was flexible; coming to power at the Centre meant unleashing the agency on your enemies and withdrawing all the cases against oneself. And while getting a posting as the top cop at the CBI effectively is the pinnacle as an Indian Police Service carder officer, the current fight between Alok Verma, Director and boss of the CBI, and Rakesh Asthana, the Special Director and effectively the number two in the organisation is denting the image of the investigative agency. The accusation against Asthana is that a bribe meant for him changed hands in the parking lot of the Press Club of India. While the parking lot of the Press Club of India is a dark spot, paying a bribe in a space in the heart of governmental Delhi dotted with closed-circuit cameras, is rank amateurism if nothing else. Of course, Asthana has claimed that he is being framed and is blaming Verma for his predicament, accusing Verma of wanting him off some crucially sensitive political cases. As the 2019 General Election approaches, it is more likely than not that several high-profile corruption cases will come to the fore. Some on social media look at Asthana’s predicament through political lenses and say that the Gujarat-cadre officer was ‘close to’ Narendra Modi, but it is almost guaranteed that action against Asthana was not signed off by a senior politician and that Modi himself was unaware of the bombshell. This should bring to light charges from Congress bete noire Subramanian Swamy who has openly argued that Asthana is trying to derail some high-profile cases. The bribe, for example, was to pay the closure of the case against Moin Qureshi, the meat exporter accused of being one of India’s top money launderers and tax evaders.
Now, it remains for the CBI themselves to investigate their officer, but that said, the agency needs to clean up its act if it is to regain the trust of the public. However, it does say a lot for the extreme inefficiency and incompetence of India’s police forces that in every high-profile case, there is still the demand for a CBI investigation. However, the CBI has had a dismal record in securing convictions, more often than not due to sheer incompetence, occasionally deliberate as some feel has happened in the Vijay Mallya case, for example. As this newspaper has often argued, the key reform needed in India is police reform, because if the top investigative agency is rotten to its core, what can you expect of the beat policeman? At the end of the day, many of India’s troubles can be traced back to poor enforcement and pathetic policing. A comprehensive police reform bill is needed, and one that establishes a proper investigative agency in India. Because in India, as of today, you will not need to make a TV show called ‘How to Get Away With Murder’, because it is just so easy.