The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) a few weeks back stopped Rajiv Kochhar, brother-in-law of ICICI Bank MD and CEO Chanda Kochhar, at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (CSIA) in Mumbai while he was about to board a flight to Singapore. Mr Kochhar was then brought to the agency’s headquarters at the Bandra Kurla Complex in Mumbai. He was detained by immigration authorities at the airport and handed over to CBI sleuths, who questioned him in connection with the bank’s dealing with the Videocon Group.
Is this the way to get someone for questioning? Mr Rajiv Kochhar was not running away from the country and he certainly was not named in any written complaint. Even if he was, which was not in the public domain, the CBI could have informed him to reach its office. Any agency has absolutely no right to humiliate a person like this. If Mr Kochhar was notified and he didn’t reach to the CBI office at the specified time this harsh step could have been justified. But the man was not at all sounded that the CBI wanted to question him. With this act CBI has not only downgraded itself, but also projected the country in a very poor light. All efforts regarding ease of doing business in India sound bogus. As long as there are human beings on this planet crime will be a part of the routine. So even if Mr Kochhar has done a crime and his involvement in any way is proved at a later stage, he has every right to be treated like a gentleman and not a criminal.
To escape interrogation Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi fled the country and the investigative agencies could do nothing. They failed to call Mallya to CBI office who was under a cloud of suspicion for more than six months before he settled in the UK. He was very much available in the country. Now just because the investigators failed to act in time several times in past they should not forget the basic courtesy. In fact, these agencies have always been misused and as such always under direct control of the government in power so the sleuths know well that nothing will happen to them. There have been many stories of their high handedness. The CBI directors were offered fresh jobs on the eve of retirement and a post- retirement job would be suggested to them.
CBI has been, since its inception, used, abused and misused. Always under a cloud from the opposition parties CBI sleuths sometimes do things that go against the norms. There are many instances. On allegations of misuse, retired Border Security Force (BSF) Director-General E. N. Rammohan once said “the agency had always been misused by the party in power at the Centre. When I was in the CBI, my own cases which I had against senior bank officials, were dropped because the party which was then in power did not want the investigative agency to prosecute the culprits. Open-and-shut cases were closed.”
Many political cases are still being investigated for decades without an outcome. There are many cases where CBI and other agencies failed to act or gave a clean chit under pressure. One such case was a clean chit to Vincent George, an aide of Sonia Gandhi, in a disproportionate assets case. A case of alleged disproportionate assets against George was closed by CBI citing insufficient evidence.
The unruly behavior and avoidable excesses by investigators cannot be accepted in a democracy. CBI and other similar investigative agencies are not holy cows. These agencies have absolutely no right to throw out of the window, even the basic procedures that have to be followed.