Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)

Context: The CBI has recently been prominently in the news, due to the public antagonism between the two top officers

Central Bureau of Investigation:

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), functioning under Dept. of Personnel, Ministry of Personnel, Pension & Public Grievances, Government of India, is the premier investigating police agency in India. It is also the nodal police agency in India that coordinates investigation on behalf of Interpol Member countries.


  • The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) owes its origin to the Special Police Establishment, constituted by the British government in 1941, which was substituted by the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act, 1946.
  • The CBI came into existence on 1 April, 1963, through a Government of India resolution. The establishment of the CBI was recommended by the Santhanam Committee on Prevention of Corruption (1962-64)
  • The CBI is not a statutory body. Its investigative and jurisdiction powers are governed by the DSPE Act, 1946.

Composition of CBI:

  • The CBI is headed by a Director and he is assisted by a Special Director or an additional director.
  • Additionally, it has a number of joint directors, deputy inspector generals, superintendents of police and all other usual ranks of police personnel

Organizational structure of CBI:The CBI has the following Divisions:

  1. Anti-Corruption Division
  2. Economic Offences Division
  3. Special Crimes Division
  4. Directorate of Prosecution
  5. Administration Division
  6. Policy & Coordination Division
  7. Central Forensic Science Laboratory
Functions of CBI:
  1. Investigating cases of corruption and fraud committed by public servants of all Central Govt. Departments, Central Public Sector Undertakings and Central Financial Institutions.
  2. Investigating economic crimes, including bank frauds, financial frauds, Import Export & Foreign Exchange violations, large-scale smuggling of narcotics, antiques, cultural property and smuggling of other contraband items etc.
  3. Investigating special Crimes, such as cases of terrorism, bomb blasts, sensational homicides, kidnapping for ransom and crimes committed by the mafia/the underworld.
  4. Coordinating the activities of the anti-corruption agencies and the various state police forces.
  5. Taking up, on the request of a state government, any case of public importance for investigation.
  6. Maintaining crime statistics and disseminating criminal information
Powers and Jurisdiction of CBI:
  • Section 3 of the DSPE Act confers upon the CBIs concurrent and co-extensive powers to carry out the investigation of the offences mentioned under the same section.
  • According to Section 6 of the DSPE Act, The Central Government has the power to extend the jurisdiction of the CBI to any area, except union territories, that falls within the geographical boundaries of India, subject to the consent of the state so concerned
  • An additional power conferred in the CBI Constitution is that CBI can correspond with and demand information from any Ministry or Department of the central or State Government
  • The officers of the CBI also have the added power of being exempt from the provisions of the Right to Information Act of 2005
Issues with CBI:
  1. Vulnerability to political pressure:The CBI has often been criticised for its alleged failure to function impartially and objectively as an agency of law and acting at the government’s behest. However, simultaneously there has always been an ever-increasing demand for investigation of complicated cases involving influential persons to be handed over to the CBI. In 2013, the Supreme Court called it a “caged parrot”.
  2. Issue with legislation: The charter of duties of the CBI is not protected by legislation. Instead, its functions are based merely on a government resolution that draws its powers from the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946- a colonial law. Critics are of the opinion that this makes CBI merely the premier investigative arm of the Union government.
  3. No own cadre: The CBI is run by officers on deputation, who are susceptible to the government’s ability to manipulate the senior officers as they are dependent on the Central government for future postings
  4. Internal conflicts: Internal conflicts in CBI is a major challenge to the functioning of the organization. The present conflict between Director and Special Director and their public allegations against each other raises serious questions about the integrity and image of the agency.
  5. Delays in concluding investigations: Enormous delays in concluding investigations is a major criticism of CBI. Supreme Court and High Courts hand over a large number of sensitive cases to the CBI for investigation without additional manpower.
  6. Challenges in Investigation and Human resource issue:
  • The CBI face challenges in investigating many crimes and quality of investigation has been questioned.
  • It also faces an acute shortage of manpower in the ranks of Constable, Head Constable, Inspector and Superintendent of Police.
  1. Low conviction: In the majority of the cases of corruption and financial irregularities probed by the CBI, conviction rates are very low. A parliamentary panel reported that on the corruption cases handled by the CBI, there are studies that show that the conviction rate is abysmally low (3%)- Hindu Business line- October 31st, 2017
  2. Dependence on State governments: CBI is dependent on State governments for invoking its authority to investigate cases in a State, even when such investigation targets a Central government employee.

  1. Misuse of CBI: There have been allegations that the government misuses CBI to target opposition parties and settle political scores. This has largely been responsible for the state government’s opposition to enacting a Central law for the CBI.
  2. Overlapping of functions: A Parliamentary Standing Committee (2015) observed that there is an overlap in jurisdictions of CVC, CBI, and Lokpal in certain cases with the potential to create serious functional problems. The Committee observed that existing provisions make it possible for a complaint of corruption against an official being simultaneously dealt with by multiple agencies.
  3. Exclusion from RTI: The role and transparency of CBI investigation raised public debate in Bofors scam, Jain hawala, 2G scam, coal scam, and other prominent cases. However, even after the enactment of the RTI Act, 2005, the CBI has managed to keep itself outside the purview of the Act.

Steps taken:

CVC ACT, 2003

  1. In Vineet Narayan vs. Union of India (1998), the apex court laid down that the director, CBI shall be appointed on the recommendation of a committee comprising the Central Vigilance Commissioner, vigilance commissioners, secretary (home) and secretary (personnel), and that he shall have a minimum tenure of two years. In pursuant with SC order, the CBI Director has been provided security of tenure in office by CVC Act 2003
  2. The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) was given statutory status free of control from any executive authority as per the provisions of Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) Act, 2003. It was authorised to exercise superintendence over the CBI in the investigation of offences committed under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

he Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act (2013):

It amended the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act (1946) and made the following changes with respect to the composition of the CBI:

  1. The Central Government shall appoint the director of CBI on the recommendation of a three-member committee consisting of the Prime Minister as Chairperson, the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha and the chief justice of India or judge of the Supreme Court nominated by him.
  2. There shall be a Directorate of prosecution headed by a Director for conducting the prosecution of cases under the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013. He shall function under the overall supervision and control of the Director of the CBI. He shall be appointed by the Central Government on the recommendation of the Central Vigilance Commission and hold office for a period of two years.
  3. The Central Government shall appoint officers of the rank of SP and above in the CBI on the recommendation of a Committee consisting of the Central Vigilance Commissioner as Chairperson, the Vigilance Commissioners, the secretary of the Home Ministry and the Secretary of the Department of Personnel.

Delhi Special Police Establishment (Amendment) Act, 2014:

It made a change in the composition of the Committee related to the appointment of the Director of C.B.I. It states that where there is no recognized leader of the Lok Sabha, then the leader of the single largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha would be a member of that committee.

Major Committees and recommendations

  1. P. Singh Committee, 1978 recommended the enactment of a comprehensive central legislation to remove the deficiency of not having a central investigative agency with a self-sufficient statutory charter of duties and functions.
  2. Estimates Committee of the Parliament (1991-92) under Jaswant Singh had recommended that the CBI be given statutory status and have legal powers to investigate cases with inter-state ramifications
  3. The 19th report of the parliamentary standing committee (2007) recommended that a separate Act should be promulgated for the CBI in tune with the requirements of the time to ensure credibility and impartiality.
  4. The 24th report of the parliamentary standing committee (2008) was of the unanimous opinion that “the need of the hour is to strengthen the CBI in terms of legal mandate, infrastructure and resources”.
  5. Parliamentary Committee (2015) recommended integrating Central Vigilance Commission and anti-corruption wing of the CBI to work directly under the command and control of Lokpal to deal with corruption cases.

Way Ahead

  1. A comprehensive new central law should be formulated for the governance of the CBI and ensure autonomy to the agency. Further, the charter of duties should be clearly defined and stated.
  2. Measures should be taken to restore the institutional integrity of the CBI and boost public confidence in the institution
  3. CBI should develop its own dedicated cadre of officers who are not bothered about deputation and abrupt transfers.
  4. The infrastructure and human resources should be strengthened for effective investigation and to avoid delays in concluding investigations
  5. Measures should be taken to ensure transparency in the process of investigations by CBI. Further, there should be public discourse on whether CBI should be brought under the RTI Act.
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