THE transfer of senior CBI officers Rakesh Asthana, AK Sharma, MK Sinha and Jayant J Naiknavare gives the government a clean slate to start with. Indeed, it is surprising that this step was not taken till now. The publicly acrimonious behaviour of the top brass at the country’s premier investigative agency left everybody singed by its fallout. The government threw out the rule book while dismissing Alok Verma as Director, a move made far worse by not moving others. This created the impression of partisanship. The country had to see the sorry spectacle of India’s top cops fighting with each other, dragging in the courts and the government in their slugfest.
Now that the top brass is being replaced, there is a chance of a reset. Norms of appointment need to be followed to a T and the members of the selection committee to appoint the new CBI Director, led by the PM, must ensure the best officer is selected to head the CBI. Others in his team should also be selected with care. Ideally, sensitive appointments need to be bipartisan, and the choice should inspire confidence in the system, which has been severely damaged by the shadow of adhocism and open display of discord.
The government must eschew the temptation of imposing its will, as should the Opposition. The CBI deserves much better than to be seen as the political executive’s handmaiden. The bureau’s independence is a prerequisite to its proper functioning, as is the integrity and the discretion of its officers. The very idea of them being booked under various Sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act, as happened recently, is unthinkable. Even as the jury is out about such activities by the officers who have been removed, their gross indiscipline is reason enough for them to go. As for the government that let the original situation deteriorate to such an alarming extent, it is hoped that it would monitor the conduct of the new incumbents with due diligence, even as it provides them with the support they need to restore the morale and prestige of the CBI.