General consent for CBI: The law, and political reasons for its denial

What is the news?

Recently, the Supreme Court expressed concern about states withdrawing general consent to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

About the Case

The CBI had filed the affidavit after the court inquired last month about the bottlenecks it faced and the steps it had taken to strengthen prosecutions. In that, the CBI has said that since 2018, around 150 requests for sanction to investigate have been pending with eight state governments that have withdrawn general consent to the agency. These are Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Kerala, and Mizoram. The court observed this as “not a desirable position.”

What is general consent?

CBI is governed by The Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act, 1946. The jurisdiction of CBI is confined to Delhi and Union Territories under this Act. Section 5 of the DSPE Act empowers special police establishments (SPEs), including CBI, to investigate cases in the states. Section 6 of the DSPE Act restricts the powers of SPEs under section 5 and puts the condition of the consent of the Government of that State to investigate any case in that state.

So, the CBI must mandatorily obtain the consent of the state government concerned before beginning to investigate a crime in a state. It can be either case-specific or general.

A “general consent” is normally given by states to help the CBI in the seamless investigation of corruption against central government employees. In the absence of which, the CBI would have to apply to the state government in every case, and before taking even small actions.

What does the withdrawal of general consent mean?

1. CBI has the power to investigate cases that had been registered before consent was withdrawn. 2. CBI will not be able to register any fresh case in the state without the consent of the state, 3. CBI officers will lose all powers of a police officer, whenever they enter the state, 4. CBI can investigate cases registered anywhere else in the country, which involved individuals stationed in these states.

Source: This post is based on the article “General consent for CBI: The law, and political reasons for its denial” published in Indian Express on 11th November 2021.

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