SC concerned as CBI requests to investigate cases pending with states

EXPRESSING CONCERN over requests by the CBI, seeking specific sanction to probe cases, pending with eight states which have withdrawn general consent to the agency, the Supreme Court said on Monday that it is “not a desirable position”.

A bench headed by Justice S K Kaul referred to an affidavit filed by the CBI director, stating that about 150 such requests were pending with the governments of Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Kerala and Mizoram since 2018.

The bench noted that these requests were made for matters relating to allegations of cheating, forgery, misappropriation, and also bank fraud cases.

The bench, which included Justice M M Sundresh, said “18% cases (were) of corrupt public servants… 78% of cases are said to be pending… not a desirable position”.

The bench also expressed concern over the stay granted by courts in CBI cases, thereby delaying the trial. “Both the aforesaid aspects need to be addressed,” the SC said, referring the matter to Chief Justice of India N V Ramana.

The CBI had filed the affidavit in response to the court’s query last month about the bottlenecks faced by it and steps taken to strengthen prosecution of cases.

The court had said there was a general perception that the agency’s success rate was rather low.

In its reply, the CBI said since these eight states had withdrawn general consent, it had to seek sanction separately for each case, and this was causing delay. The agency also submitted that the stay granted by courts was contributing to the delay, and said over 12,000 cases had been stayed so far.

The court was hearing an application filed by the CBI, along with an appeal against an order of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, seeking condonation of delay in filing it. During an earlier hearing, the bench had noted that the file was pending for comments of the deputy legal advisor in the office of the head of branch from May 9, 2018 to January 19, 2019.

On Monday, the bench told Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain that the problem is that “nobody is made accountable”. It also took exception to the affidavit explaining the delay as “inadvertent”, and said it was “incompetence”.

The court noted that the affidavit had said an inquiry was on to fix responsibility for the delay. Allowing the application seeking condonation of delay, the court asked the agency to deposit Rs 25,000, to be recovered from those responsible for the delay.

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