Functioning of CBI


  • The Supreme Court has rejected the Centre’s contention that it has no authority over the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).


  • The Supreme Court was dealing with a suit filed by the state of West Bengal under Article 131 of the constitution, accusing the Union government of “interfering” in cases originating within the state’s jurisdiction by unilaterally authorizing the CBI to probe them.
  • West Bengal said the Centre continues to employ the CBI despite withdrawing general consent to the CBI investigations within its territory under Section 6 of the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act, 1946.

Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)

  • CBI, functioning under the Ministry of Personnel, Pension & Public Grievances, Government of India, is the premier investigating police agency in India.
  • History: The CBI occurred during World War II when the colonial government felt the need to probe corruption cases in the War and Supply Department. A law came in 1941. It became the DSPE Act in 1946.
  • It was established by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India’s resolution in 1963.
  • The Santhanam Committee on Prevention of Corruption recommended the establishment of the CBI.
  • Functions: CBI was established to investigate serious crimes related to the defence of India, corruption in high places, serious fraud, cheating, embezzlement and social crime, particularly hoarding, black marketing, and profiteering in essential commodities, having all-India and inter-state ramifications.
  • It is also the nodal police agency in India that coordinates investigations on behalf of Interpol member countries.
  • Jurisdiction: CBI derives power to investigate from the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946.
  • Section 2 of the Act vests DSPE with jurisdiction to investigate offences in the Union Territories only.
  • The jurisdiction can be extended by the Central Government to other areas including Railway areas and States under Section 5(1) of the Act, provided the State Government accords consent under Section 6 of the Act.

How many types of consent are there for the CBI?

  • There are two types of consent for a probe by the CBI. These are: general and specific.
  • When a state gives general consent to the CBI for probing a case, the agency is not required to seek fresh permission every time it enters that state in connection with an investigation or for every case.
  • Specific Consent: When general consent is withdrawn, the CBI needs to seek case-wise consent for investigation from the concerned state government.
  • If specific consent is not granted, the CBI officials will not have the power of police personnel when they enter that state.

Issues in the functioning of CBI

  • Legislative Problems: In the conduct or continuance of investigation into offences committed within the territory of a state, consent of the state is required which most of the time is delayed or even denied.
  • Political Issues: In 2013, the Supreme Court described the CBI as “a caged parrot speaking in its master’s voice” (Politicization of CBI).
  • The observation was made in the context of government interference in the functioning of the CBI in its investigation of the coal block allocation cases.
  • Transparency Issues: The CBI is exempted from the purview of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005.
  • Overlapping Functions: There is an overlap in jurisdictions of the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), CBI and Lokpal in certain cases leading to problems.

Way Ahead

  • The role, jurisdiction and legal powers of the CBI need to be laid down. It will give it goal clarity, role clarity, autonomy in all spheres and an image makeover as an independent autonomous statutory body.
  • The Second Administrative Reforms Commission (2007) also suggested that “a new law should be enacted to govern the working of the CBI”.
  • The 19th and 24th reports of the parliamentary standing committees (2007 and 2008) recommended that “the need of the hour is to strengthen the CBI in terms of legal mandate, infrastructure and resources”.