May 3, 2001


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The Rediff Interview/ Former Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation R K Raghavan

'We see a ghost in everything the CBI does'

R K Raghavan While studying for his master's in political science, R K Raghavan wanted to be a management guru. He thought his dreams almost came true when he was shortlisted as a management trainee. But when his name did not make to the final selection list, his father R Krishnaswami asked him to try for the Indian Police Service instead.

Still wondering if it was the right thing to do, Raghavan appeared for the IPS exams. This time he topped the list, and the rest is history.

Today, his has been a long journey, spanning 38 years. Having just retired as director of the Central Bureau of Investigation, Raghavan says he is happy he did not end up a management guru. He spoke to Ramesh Menon the day after his retirement.

How does it feel after retiring as the chief of India's premier investigating agency?

I still can't believe I am finally unemployed! It (my career) was eventful and professionally satisfying. If I am asked to go through it again, I would not mind. It was my best experience. There were many challenges. There were cases of enormous sensitivity and dimensions. There were cases (that were) difficult to surmount.

Anti corruption work is unpopular. Many do not want us to succeed. So we have more detractors and supporters. But we got some big fish.


I do not think it is proper to take names. I do not want to hurt or offend individuals. So no names. I am a firm believer in the Bhagvad Gita. Malice towards none. Just do your work.

Were you able to ensure that they were punished?

We can only register a case. It is for the courts to take it forward from there. Bringing an offender to book and punishing him is not the only job of the CBI. It is for the whole society to do so.

The CBI is an organisation that everybody should have a vested interest in -- because it is a bulwark against corruption and maltreatment against public servants.

What would you say were the high points of your tenure in the CBI?

Match-fixing -- in terms of investigation. We were able to file two chargesheets in the Bofors case. We busted some cases dealing with drugs and arms where Pakistan was involved.

But the thrust I gave was to cybercrime. I want the CBI to seize leadership in that area. If they cannot do it, they are not worth their salt.

Everybody is going to use cyberspace to commit crime. It can be easily done and cannot be easily detected. That is why it (cyber crime) is going to increase as it is easier than conventional crime.

Are your officers equipped for this?

Now most of our officers are equipped. There is a beeline to join the CBI. I always ask officers who come to join the CBI whether they are computer literate. If they are not, I do not take a second look at them. We have tests -- up to the DIG level -- in the use of computers. Everyone knows they either learn computers or perish. I am sure my successors will continue to do so. There is no alternative.

Which cases did you think were challenging to investigate?

(The) Bibi Jagir Kaur (case). This was a blind case which we solved. Then there was the prosecution of the director general of police in Haryana in a sexual abuse case. Of course, match-fixing was a major success. Initially, I was very reluctant to take it up. As there was no government money or public servants involved, I thought we must not get into it. But we took it up and unearthed many facts. Even foreign cricket organisations and administrators swear by our investigations. Many criticised us for not going to court and filing a chargesheet.

Why did you not go to court?

It is legally not sustainable. Legal opinions in criminal law told us we cannot go to court. But ultimately we have done a great service by unearthing facts to the cricket loving community.

Your predecessors like Vijaya Rama Rao were attacked for shielding P V Narasimha Rao. Joginder Singh was attacked for giving a lot of leeway to U N Biswas who was investigating Laloo Yadav (in the fodder scam). Do you think the director is always in the hot seat?

These allegations were ill founded. They were good officers. We have to do a lot of tightrope walking and very often we are wrongly assailed. I cannot wish this away. This is going to happen. That is why we need people with integrity, men with a stable mind, men who do not look for the fruits of office.

If you are hailed as a good investigator and get rewarded, it is incidental. But if you focus on rewards, then one cannot go far. You have to be a karmayogi, neither elated by success or dismayed by failure.

Compared to your predecessors, your tenure was relatively free of controversy. Were you just lucky or did you stave off controversy?

I have been very lucky with divine grace. I am not ashamed to say this. I have a picture of Balaji in my room and I pray five times a day. I want to avoid controversy. I am a man of consensus. I will not like to hit even when I am hit.

When my appointment was quashed because of a batchmate who hit me below the belt, I did not hit back. He made so many allegations saying that it was political patronage that helped me get the job. I am not a Jesus Christ to turn the other cheek when I am hit, but I have a lot of restraint because of my spiritual strength and that is why I had a tenure reasonably free of controversy.

Cricket match-fixing was one of the high profile cases handle by you. In retrospect, how do you see the scandal?

As one who has played cricket, this was a shocking revelation. The game which is almost a religion in India, lost credibility. There is no guarantee that it will not happen again.

There is no limit to human avarice. So we have to take basic precautions for keeping the marauders away from the game. And ensure that a cricketer is kept away from elements who are out to make money. Our cricketers need counselling. They are young and have extraordinary talent. They see a lot of people making lots of money. They also want to make a fast buck.

We have to be liberal with match fees, allow them to appear in television shows and ads and let them take sponsorship money. It will keep them away from temptation.

How has political pressure come to plague the CBI?

Unfortunately, we see a ghost in everything that the CBI does. The CBI does not operate in a vacuum. In a highly political society like India, wanting an institution free of political interference is like asking for the moon.

Ultimately, it depends on the leader to ensure that the outcome of any investigation is not influenced by political interference.

You cannot operate away from the political scene. Every public servant has a right to make a representation. It is an admirable marvellous democracy. We have to make ourselves available to hear everybody. Sometimes, politicians tell us things we do not know. We should work on every piece of information. Merely saying that there is political interference is wrong.

I do not object to friends, businessmen and others who come to talk to us and give us information. Why then should I object when politicians come to talk to us? What makes the difference is whether we buckle under pressure.

You must have faced political pressure at some point in your career.

When I started my career in Nagapatnam as an assistant superintendent of police, I was transferred overnight to a Godforsaken place just because in a raid, I had literally caught a politician with his pants down. But the public went to the chief minister and told him it was unfair (to punish me). The CM made inquiries and the transfer was cancelled. I have not allowed political interference to affect me.

Why has there been a delay in finding your successor?

I cannot explain that. The job is important and crucial and the government is considering it. I do not think you should grudge the government for taking some time in making a right choice.

Would it not have been better if you had the chance to brief your successor?

The man who is in charge now, has been an outstanding officer for 20 years. I did not have to brief him.

Is this not an eloquent indicator of political pressure that the government is taking its own time to appoint a director? How can the CBI function effectively or be taken serious when it just has an acting director?

The special director of the CBI, who is now the acting director, has tremendous professional acumen and credibility. What is in a name? He enjoys all the powers.

How long will it take the CBI to become a FBI kind of agency, to be able to speedily investigate crime abroad that is related to India?

How do you know that FBI solves its problems with greater alacrity or speed? Investigations abroad will take time as it depends on the goodwill of other governments. We have to issue letters and that country involved has to work on it. I do not see any drastic reduction in time as there is an elaborate procedure to be followed.

You were around when the Sriperumbudur blast took place killing Rajiv Gandhi. You recovered the camera that ultimately led to the arrest of the killers. But the Verma commission did not have kind words for you. How do you see it now?

I preserved that camera which unravelled the crime. I stood my ground because of spiritual energy from prayer. I was assaulted twice. In the first attack, Moopanar protected me from the fury of Congressmen.

Then after he left with Rajiv Gandhi's body, they attacked me again. I lost vision for a few months as my eye was injured. An application of steroids then helped me see again. Mentally, I was badly affected.

I greatly adored Rajiv Gandhi. Officially, I was hauled over the coals. I was denied so many things. There was a bias against me in the Government of India. But ultimately, it all worked out.

What does the CBI need to do to become more efficient, speedy and credible?

We need more staff. We need to become more equipment oriented. We must have less number of insignificant cases. We need to have a greater selectivity as far as cases go. Many cases are imposed on us. Fortunately, the judiciary is sensitive to the fact that we should not be overburdened.

You are also short of officers.

We are short of nearly 1,000 investigators.

Is there a lot of concern about corruption within the CBI?

It is a matter of concern. It is present. It is latent. We arrested three former officers who were trying to influence cases. It is absurd for me to say that it does not exist. We have a reasonably good mechanism to curb malpractices.

How have you been able to curb malpractices within the CBI?

We subject every case to scrutiny at atleast five levels. So individual malpractices cannot work. Some cases come to me. That is why a lot of cases get delayed. When so many people are scrutinising it, the danger of malpractices are reduced.

Many Enforcement Directorate, Central Board of Direct Taxes and Directorate of Revenue Intelligence officials have corruption cases against them. How can the rot be stemmed?

They have to devise their own internal vigilance mechanisms. But it has probably not been very effective. The temptation is too high, that is why this happens. Ultimately, the effort has to come from within these organisations, though we have stepped in to stem the rot.

What do you think of the Ketan Parekh scandal?

It is under investigation and has made good progress. It will conclude very shortly. It is proceeding on the right lines. Only my successor will talk about this now.

What lesson did the Bofors scandal have for the CBI?

It showed us how investigations and a speedy trial could be stalled by certain determined accused, particularly if they are outside India. It was a major investigation which was spread all over the world. It is a classic case of how investigations can take time as it has international ramifications.

The CBI is also investigating deals involving Jayalalitha. There were some allegations that she had ensured you become the CBI director.

The investigations into a gift case where she got $ 300,000 has made considerable headway. We are working on it. The allegations that she was instrumental in making me the CBI chief is bunkum. She was in no way involved.

What about the defence deals?

The Chief Vigilance Commissioner has sent a report on defence deals to the government. We have not seen it. Till now, the CBI has not been asked to investigate any major defence deals.

What are you planning to do now?

Everything under the sun. I want to write. I want to go to the United States to lecture on criminal justice. Also acquire greater specialisation in cybercrime. I may go back to radio and television doing interviews, quiz programmes and commentaries.

What about a government job?

Yes certainly, if I am offered one. It is a privilege to work for the government. It is like working for a public cause.

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