In the Supreme Court on Thursday, the Central government asserted that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) operates independently, emphasizing that it is not under the control of the Union government during the registration, investigation, and prosecution of cases.
This stance was presented in response to a suit filed by the State of West Bengal, which accused the CBI of probing and registering FIRs within the state without obtaining prior consent.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Union government, argued that the CBI is an autonomous agency governed by the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act, not a mere extension of the Centre.
He contended that the suit, filed under Article 131 of the Constitution, lacked merit as it failed to acknowledge that the Centre does not influence the CBI’s decisions in investigative matters. The Union asserted that the CBI operates independently and is not subject to the Centre’s control.
Mehta highlighted that even the Central Vigilance Commission, with supervisory powers over the CBI, does not exert influence on the agency’s investigations.
However, senior advocate Kapil Sibal, representing West Bengal, argued that the suit wasn’t about the Centre’s influence but focused on the CBI’s jurisdiction to investigate cases in a state that has withdrawn consent.
Sibal deemed it preposterous for the Centre to insist that only a central agency could investigate offenses outlined in a Union law, emphasizing that a state police force should have the authority to investigate offenses related to central laws.
The West Bengal government contended that if a state withdraws consent, Section 5 of the DSPE Act, granting the CBI power to investigate offenses in other states, should not come into play.
The dispute arose from the CBI’s investigation into cases of post-poll violence in West Bengal, with the state government questioning how the CBI could ignore its 2018 notification withdrawing consent.
The Union, in an affidavit, explained that the cases under scrutiny also involved offenses of corruption against Central government employees.