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'The CBI has to be blamed'

February 04, 2019 14:42 IST

'In the CBI's history, a situation like this has never ever occurred.'
You cannot barge into a senior police officer's house at 6.30 in the evening on a Sunday.'
'Just because you are a CBI officer, you can't perform a duty that is not legal.'

IMAGE: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at a dharna over the Central Bureau of Investigation's attempt to question Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar in connection with the probes into chit fund scams in Kolkata, February 4, 2019. Photograph: Swapan Mahapatra/PTI Photo

As the unprecedented drama continues in Kolkata following a standoff between the Kolkata police and a Central Bureau of Investigation team trying to question Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar in connection with the Saradha and Rose valley chit fund scams, K Ragothaman, the CBI's former chief investigating officer, believes the Bureau is at fault in going to the police commissioner's office without a warrant.

"The procedure adopted on Sunday was not in accordance with the CBI manual," Ragothaman, below, tells Rediff.com's Shobha Warrier.

 

You worked as an investigating officer with the CBI for many decades. Can you recall any incident similar to what we are witnessing in Kolkata?

From 1968 to 2005, I was with the CBI and I know what had happened at the CBI from 1963-1964, that is, after the organisation came into existence. I can say that in the CBI's history, a situation like this has never ever occurred.

There were cases registered against even chief ministers of India, and they were questioned. Lalu Prasad Yadav was questioned when he was the chief minister of Bihar. Similarly, when Narendra Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat, he was questioned.

It was a routine matter. The investigating officers and the supervising officers had a smooth relationship with the local police and the local administrators.

We used to send a request seeking to question them in connection with an investigation under the directive of the Supreme Court of India.

We had questioned M Karunanidhi. I myself had questioned Jayalalithaa in 1999 in the SPIC case.

We had questioned many police officers including the DGP which we did taking the confidence of the state government.

Here, in Kolkata, the CBI should have contacted the DGP and sought his permission to question (the Kolkata police commissioner).

As per law, you have to issue a notice under Section 160 CrPC (Criminal Procedure Code) and then you can summon any witness for examination in any crime investigation.

It is not only applicable to CBI officers, it is also applicable to local officers.

So, considering his (the Kolkata police commissioner's) position, the CBI should have issued a 160 notice.

If he doesn't appear, you then take action against him.

That is what the CBI officers say. He didn't appear and was absconding...

As far as I know, they have not issued a 160 notice to him.

Without issuing a 160 notice, you cannot barge into a senior police officer's house at 6.30 in the evening on a Sunday.

Look at the timing. They should have gone to his office on a working day during daytime.

What made the CBI to go to his house at 6.30 in the evening on a Sunday?

Forget that he is a police commissioner, you cannot go and examine any officer on a Sunday in the evening.

There are a set of principles the CBI follows. If the person refuses to come (in response) to the notice, the CBI can go to court and get a warrant to summon him as a witness. We have followed this in several cases.

Who will you blame for this situation?

The CBI has to be blamed first.

The officer has already said that he was neither an accused nor a witness in the Saradha scam case; he was only a supervising officer of the case.

Moreover, the CBI should have asked him for the records in 2014 itself when the Supreme Court had ordered and not after five years.

It took five years for them to take the records from a supervising officer! How can they explain the reason for the delay?

And the procedure adopted on Sunday was not in accordance with the CBI manual.

The Kolkata police can be justified in their action because the CBI officers went there without a warrant and without a notice.

This point can be raised by any citizen of India, not just the senior police officer because this violates the fundamental rights of a citizen.

When the CBI say they have the Supreme Court order, they can ask, you have it from 2014. Now that you have come to examine the police commissioner, do you have the warrant?

But the CBI chief claims the police chief has been instrumental in destruction of evidence and obstructing justice...

That's okay. Let them put this argument before the court and he can be hauled up under Section 214 of the IPC (Indian Penal Code), for fabricating evidence to save the accused.

This is a punishable offence. So, when they have considered him as an accused, they should have taken a warrant.

Do you think this is more a political battle between the Centre and Mamata Banerjee?

Let us leave the political battle aside. Political battles have always been there in all the issues, but the CBI has to maintain its decorum and dignity by following a procedure.

When you follow the procedure laid down by the CrPC, nobody can raise a finger against you.

Why do you think the CBI did not follow procedure?

That is the fault of the CBI. It is not the fault of the investigating officer or supervising officer. They were just following the head office.

The new CBI director was to take charge on Monday morning. So why the hurry to do this on a Sunday evening? Can anyone answer this question?

Mamata Banerjee says democracy has been murdered and the Constitution has been trampled upon.

Politicians can take shelter under any umbrella. But the police, especially the CBI, should not become a tool in the hands of politicians.

Had they not gone to the commissioner's house at 6.30 in the evening on a Sunday, nothing of this sort would have happened. This drama would not have enacted.

I don't attribute all the mess that is happening with the CBI to Prime Minister Modi or BJP chief Amit (Anilchandra) Shah or Mamata Banerjee; it is the making of the CBI officers themselves.

They are destroying the organisation. The ruling parties -- whether it is the Congress or the BJP -- would like to have their people in the CBI, but the CBI should have been professional in its dealings.

What happened in Kolkata was unnecessary and unwarranted. It only brought bad name to the CBI again.

Was it because of a lack of understanding that they behaved like this?

The CBI used to be manned by experienced police officers from the state who had served in the investigation department.

There is a difference in working in the investigation department and law and order.

Let them be from the CID, CoD, anti-corruption as they are better than the local police as they know how to investigate, and also how to go about when big politicians or police officers are involved.

There are a set of rules and regulations to follow in investigation and the officers have to be thorough with them.

What has happened is now officers with no experience in investigation are dumped into the CBI.

This is the root cause of all the problems with the CBI, and not the politicians.

I won't fault the politician for destroying the credibility of the CBI; the officers are the culprits.

These inexperienced officers are destroying the image of the CBI.

Here, if they had gone with a warrant, nobody on earth could stop the investigating officer.

If the state police had stopped them, they would have been liable for penal offence for preventing an officer from doing his duty.

But performing the duty has to be legal! Just because you are a CBI officer, you can't perform a duty that is not legal.

Shobha Warrier / Rediff.com