CBI efficiency tag under severe stress

About 2,300 cases have been pending with the CBI for over a decade.

Pankaj Sharma/ Zee Research Group

India’s premier investigating agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation’s (CBI) efficiency tag is severely under stress with about two thousand three hundred cases pending with it for more than a decade. The agency has about a thousand cases pending for more than 15 years while about 381 cases remain unresolved for two decades now.

The agency has just updated its performance assessment in which it has tabulated the list of pending cases upto April 2011 on a year-wise basis. It, however, neither has profiled these cases nor listed any reason for the delay in their settlement.

But statistics present their own story. Delhi, the seat of power in the country, as also headquarter of the investigating agency, has the distinction of having the highest number of cases pending trial in a state-wise comparison offered by the agency.

Delhi has in all 458 cases pending with the CBI with a ten-year plus old tag attached to them. While maximum 257 cases were pending for the last 10 to 15 years, those pending beyond 15 and 20 stood at 137 and 64, respectively.

West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat follow with 338, 282, 264 and 156 cases pending respectively, for trial from more than a 10-year period.

While the CBI is silent, it is not difficult to explain the pile-up. Former CBI joint director K Madhavan, who tracked Bofors and the Securities Scam case explained, “The pile-up is happening due to tactics applied by the influential accused keen to delay the case. This is the main reason why 99 per cent of cases are moving slowly in CBI courts.” He did not though specify any such “influential” accused.

Madhavan expressed confidence that the pile-up would be expeditiously cleared under the tenure of the current CBI chief but rose to the defence of the agency arguing that “CBI can be blamed as far as the chargesheet of a case is concerned but after that is filed the agency has nothing to do with the case.”

Former CBI director Joginder Singh (July 1, 1996 until June 30, 1997) said, “CBI is not independent. As per the law it has to take permission from the Centre to prosecute high officials of the government. We can take an example from the 2G scam case where A Raja could be arrested only one year after the case was filed.”

Singh cited lack of staff at the agency as another key factor behind the delay. “Prime Minister Manmohan Singh promised in 2009 to set up 71 fast-track courts but only few are functioning,” he added.

As of May this year, CBI was short by about 30 per cent staff. While the sanctioned strength for the CBI is 6,539 the actual is 5,100. The vacancies exist at all levels thus adversely impacting performance. Highest, 211 posts, are vacant for the sub-inspector level.

Vacancies exist for other posts too as well with the post of Inspector of Police, Constables and Public Prosecutor at 199, 177 and 106 levels, respectively.

Apart from filling up the existing posts, other solutions to clear the backlog are also on offer. Madhavan favoured introduction of plea bargain, whereby a defendant was offered an opportunity to plead guilty usually either to a lesser charge or to the original one with a recommendation of a lighter than the maximum sentence, to reduce the number of pending cases.

Incumbent CBI director AP Singh has gone on record to seek a solution to the staff crunch issue. He told the media that the Central and state governments were not meeting its requirement through deputation of additional officers even as the agency was loaded with fresh cases from states, the Union government and from the courts.

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