Ourview | Has CBI rediscovered its mojo?

Ourview | Has CBI rediscovered its mojo?

It is the season of arrests. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Monday added to the growing list of incarcerated VVIPs with the arrest of G. Janardhan Reddy, a kingmaker in the erstwhile cabinet of former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa. It came after a two-year inquiry initiated on a complaint by the Congress government of Andhra Pradesh— hence, the allegations by the BJP of partisan behaviour.

Preceding this was the arrest of high-profile politicians such as Congress member of Parliament Suresh Kalmadi and former telecom minister A. Raja. Adding to this mix is B. Ramalinga Raju, for his alleged role in the Satyam scandal.

It is probably for the first time ever that so many VVIPs, regardless of their political hue, have been arrested so close to each other. It obviously begs the question: Has CBI rediscovered its mojo?

It must be definitely working wonders for the morale of the country’s premier investigating agency, which has recently been under considerable fire. The BJP, the principal opposition party, has been particularly severe on the agency. The series of arrests, cutting across political parties, should contain this criticism for now. In the past, the frequency of action and inaction on alleged violations seemed in sync with political signals from the Centre. It may well be coincidence, but perceptions linger.

At the same time it needs to exercise care in not playing to the gallery—given the current no-nonsense mood of the nation towards corruption. Especially since there is but a fine line between legitimate investigation and harassment— transgressions would severely impair the credibility of a premier institution.

However, if CBI is to effect a complete makeover of its image, obtaining indictments from the court is critical. Alternatively, allegations of partisan behaviour will persist. As of now there has been no indictment and the trial has happened largely through inspired media leaks. The cases are at various stages and in some instances have not even begun. CBI’s track record in previous investigations does not inspire optimism. Hence, the onus is on the premier investigating agency. Will it rise to the task?

Can CBI regain its stature as the country’s top investigating agency? Tell us at views@livemint.com