Growing state referrals further burden CBI

Each special court of the CBI is today laden with 185 trial cases.

Pankaj Sharma/ ZRG

Is India’s premier investigation agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), heavily burdened by constantly piling workload?

Yes, indeed, if one were to go by the ever growing number of cases being referred to the agency by various states. The pile-up has got accentuated with the agency having established yet only 54 of the 71 due special courts to clear the pendency.

As a result each special court of the CBI is today laden with 185 trial cases. 71 courts were announced to be set up by Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh in 2009, to ease the pressure and bring about speedy conviction.

An analysis shows that the referrals to the CBI by respective state governments registered an increase to 79 cases in 2011 from 36 in 2010. Earlier, during 2009 the number of such cases was 33.

During 2012, 29 cases were reported during the first two months. This all added up to 177 cases assigned by various states to the CBI during the last four years (2009-until February 2012). Among the high-profile cases assigned include the Bhawari Devi case in Rajasthan, Reddy Brothers-mining scam in Karnataka and the NRHM scam in Uttar Pradesh, all during 2011. Recently, the agency filed a case against former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, Mayawati for irregularities committed in awarding high security registration plates.

The study further revealed that while the number of cases pending for trial with the CBI on April 2010 was 9,000, it jumped to 9,910 on January 31, 2011 and 10,010 on October 31, 2011. At the end of February 2012 it marginally slipped to 9,964 cases, underscoring the importance of having special courts to deal with the pendency.

Terming the lack of infrastructure with CBI courts as the key contributor to jump in the pendency level, former director of CBI, Joginder Singh told ZRG, “Less number of operational CBI courts and fewer counsels at CBI courts contribute to delay in administering justice.”
Out of 9,964 last reported pending trial cases at the CBI, 7,157 cases were registered under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. While a majority of these cases were those that had been registered during the last 10 years, they also included pretty old cases that were registered 10 to 20 years ago and beyond.

Singh pitched for plea bargain system to reduce the pendency of cases with the CBI. However, apex court lawyer Ashok Arora countered Singh’s claim, and argued, “Mostly people don’t opt for the plea bargain system as they are not comfortable with the idea.” Plea bargain is a kind of out-of-court agreement where the accused agrees to plead guilty to one or more of the charges or to not contest the charges in exchange for some benefits like a lesser sentence or a lesser charge. It was introduced in India in 2005.

Singh demanded a change in the current laws to help ease pressure. “In 1996 we (CBI) chargesheeted former PM Narasimha Rao and the court ordered for daily hearing of the case. However, the court judgment came only in 2002, after a period of six years,” he recalled.

Arora asserted that the Central government needed to train the CBI on how to solve a case expeditiously. “Unnecessary adjournments and unnecessary producing of evidence in courts should be stopped to help expedite matters,” he added.