A.P., West Bengal withdraw ‘general consent’ for CBI investigations

A.P., West Bengal withdraw ‘general consent’ for CBI investigations

News:

  1. Andhra Pradesh withdrew the “general consent” granted to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), and West Bengal followed the course, thereby effectively curtailing the agency’s powers in the State without prior permission.

Important Facts:

  1. About General Consent:
  • According to Andhra Pradesh Home Ministry, the general consent was routinely given for periods ranging from six months to a year, for several years now. The last such consent was given on August 3, 2018.
  • West Bengal had accorded the consent to the CBI by the then Left Front government in 1989.
  • General consent is the periodic approval by a State government to the CBI and other agencies covered by Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946.
  • The consent is necessary as the jurisdiction of these agencies is confined to Delhi and Union Territories under this Act.
  1. Reasons for withdrawal of consent:
  • The decision was purely an administrative one taken in the context of law and order being a State subject that necessitated any Central investigation agency taking prior consent.
  • “Earlier the consent was given routinely and now the Government thought instead of a blanket permission, it should be on the merit of each case”.
  • The withdrawal of general consent was in tune with suggestions made by legal experts and intellectuals in the light of serious allegations against the CBI.
  • Apparently, showing red flag to CBI is a political decision, seen in the context of rift between Andhra Pradesh Government and Central Government in context of granting special status and the recent Income Tax raids on prominent state MPs and leaders.
  1. The government alleged how the CBI could investigate a corruption case in any State when its two top most officers were trading charges against each other and had lost all its credibility.
  2. SC Observation: Supreme Court judgment in Kazi Lhendup Dorji v. Central Bureau of Investigation & Ors (1994) stressed that withdrawal of consent would not impact the already instituted cases.
  • In that judgment, the Supreme Court had held that: “An Order revoking an Order giving Consent under Section of the Act [Delhi Special Police Establishment Act], can only have prospective operation and would not affect matters in which action has been initiated prior to the issuance of the Order of Revocation.”
  1. Earlier withdrawal:
  • “In the past, consent has been withdrawn eg., In Nagaland several times and also in Karnataka for about eight years, due to which most of the CBI officials had to be transferred out and a skeletal staff was maintained there.”
  1. Significance of the withdrawal:
  • The withdrawal of general consent means that the CBI officers lose police powers under the Criminal Procedure Code in the State concerned and for registering each case, the agency has to seek a specific consent from the State government.
  • Thus it will now have to approach the State government for permission for investigation on a case by case basis which may stall the registration of new cases.
  • CBI would henceforth require permission from the state govt to carry out any sort of investigation except those ordered by the court.
  • It may not have any bearing on the existing cases, ongoing investigations and the filing of charge sheets by the CBI in the state, according to agency officials.

 

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