The Maharashtra government on Wednesday withdrew the “general consent” granted to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), curtailing the agency’s powers to probe cases in the state. The agency will now have to approach the state government for permission to initiate the investigation on a case by case basis. The neutering of the power of CBI by the Maharashtra government, out of the blue, has raised serious suspicion over the endgame of Uddhav Thackeray and his regime.
“In exercise of the powers conferred by Section 6 of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946, the Government of Maharashtra hereby withdraws the consent accorded to the members of the Delhi Special Police Establishment…to exercise powers and jurisdiction under the said Act,” the order published as a gazette notification said.
The decision by the Maha Vikas Aghadi government comes immediately after the state government was embroiled in a bitter controversy over the Sushant Singh Rajput case. The Uddhav Thackeray regime had been hesitant in handing over the case to CBI and did everything at its disposal to stall the case files going to CBI. It was only after the case went to the Supreme Court that CBI was allowed to investigate the case.
More recently, in the TRP scam case where the Mumbai Police has found itself in a pickle for dragging Republic TV, the CBI hasn’t been allowed to investigate the case. Whereas in Uttar Pradesh, the CBI took over a similar case within three days of an FIR being launched with the UP Police about the rigging of TRPs, which might have put pressure on the Maharasthra government as allegations of the involvement of Uddhav Thackeray and his vendetta politics to take down Arnab and his team hasn’t been ruled out.
Maharashtra is not the first non-BJP state to withdraw the general consent of CBI to investigate the cases. In July this year, the Rajasthan government also withdrew its general consent accorded to the CBI to probe cases in the state, making it compulsory for the central agency to take the local government’s permission to enter its jurisdiction for the purposes of investigation.
In 2018, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) government led by Chandrababu Naidu had made the move and the Mamata Bannerjee government too followed suit. However, with a change in government in Andhra in 2019, Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy decided to again grant general consent.
Shortly after Chandrababu Naidu’s decision, the Trinamool Congress-led West Bengal government had also decided to withdraw the “general consent”. The consent had been accorded to the CBI by the then Left Front government in 1989. In 2019, the Congress government in Chhattisgarh also withdrew the general consent.
We have previously seen in West Bengal where Mamata Banerjee had gone out on her limb to save her henchman Rajeev Kumar from the clutches of the CBI. After various attempts by the CBI to summon Rajeev Kumar and his team for deposition in relation to Saradha Chit Fund Scam failed, the CBI team landed in Kolkata to question Rajeev Kumar, who at that time was absconding as he was facing an immediate arrest in all likelihood.
It was supposed to be a routine questioning round but the West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee claimed that CBI had arrived uninformed and was trying to harass an honest and one of the world’s finest cops.
Mamata Banerjee government then created one of the worst constitutional crisis in independent India’s history by detaining the CBI team that had arrived to question Rajeev Kumar.
CBI has received a lot of flak in the past due to UPA’s misuse of the premier investigative agency, however, with the Modi Government in power for the last 6 years, the faith of people has been restored in the institution of CBI.
However, the state governments in an attempt to hide their callousness and corruption, are trying to neuter CBI. The cauldron of misdeeds of governments in Maharashtra, West Bengal and Rajasthan has filled to the brim and subsequently, these governments are trying their level-best to quell any investigative agency and their prowess. Its high time that the Central government grant CBI special powers so that the state governments can’t meddle in its affairs and investigations aren’t botched due to the constant abuse of the ‘general consent’ accord.