Madras HC’s CBI reform ideas may be unpalatable to GoI. But change along similar lines is sorely needed

Source: Times of India

Relevance: This article explains the issues surrounding the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)

Synopsis: The Madras High Court’s direction to reform CBI, is a reminder for the government to pursue reforms in the organization.


Recently, the Madras high court issued 12 directions to CBI. These directions are aimed at reforming CBI as a whole. These include apprising GoI of its infrastructure, personnel, and funding requirements. The court even asked the Centre to pursue structural reform, making the agency an independent body like EC and CAG.

About the case:

Recently, CBI made a claim that they were lacking resources to investigate a Rs 300 crore cheating case after a victim raised doubts about the state police probe. CBI has taken similar pitiful stances and pleaded overburden in the past. This dent the agency’s residual public standing.

So, Madras HC inquired into CBI’s affairs and issued 12 directions.

Other issues with the CBI:

High backlog in recent years: Data submitted to Madras HC indicates that between 2001 and 2020, its conviction rate topped 65% in most years. However, against 20,804 cases registered in this period, only 7,539 cases were seen through trial, indicating a high backlog.

Not enough investigators: Despite India’s massive economic growth between 2000 and 2020, CBI’s manpower has only marginally risen from 5,796 personnel to 7,273. The agency has flagged forensics as the area where investigations face huge delays due to a shortage of manpower.

About reforming CBI and the government decisions:

The government is reluctant to reform the CBI. For instance, earlier, the Gauhati HC had held CBI’s creation as unconstitutional. But the government seek a stay on the ruling.

Successive governments haven’t shown interest in improving the agency’s performance. So, the court itself mentioned CBI as a “caged parrot”.

Read more: Limits of CBI jurisdiction
Suggestions to improve performance of CBI
  • The government can implement the recommendations of the Madras High Court. Now it is for governments to proactively take steps that meet the needs of a premier national investigating agency.
  • The government can enact a proper law governing its functioning, funding and accountability. At present, CBI is operating through the sketchy Delhi Special Police Establishment Act.
  • The government has to avoid ambiguity in the promotions of CBI officers. At present, State police inspectors and IPS officers on deputation get preference over CBI cadre in promotions to top echelons.
Read more: The need for CBI to become an autonomous body

Terms to know: 

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