November 1, 2021
To cooperate or not
To: either/view subscribers
Good morning. Americans are now observing the month of October as Hindu Heritage Month. This initiative was welcomed by several elected officials who have issued notices on the “contributions of this minority community in the US.” More than 20 of their 50 states and over 40 cities have issued proclamations about it, saying that “a Hindu way has touched all walks of life in the US.”
📰 FEATURE STORY
General Consent Tussle: States versus CBI
It’s no secret that the Centre has a tumultuous relationship with various states, particularly, non-BJP ruled ones. It’s also no secret the problematic relationship between this government and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Investigative agencies and their autonomy are crucial in a democracy. Critics have panned the way agencies have been used under the current regime. But the CBI has often been seen as a political tool no matter which government is in power.
No one doubts the importance of carrying out investigations fairly and impartially, especially in high-profile cases. So the basic steps would be for the CBI to go where the investigations take them. Follow the clues and evidence. However, over the past couple of years, that hasn’t been as easy as stated.
Of late, several states have withdrawn a power given to them, called general consent. Essentially, they’re shutting their doors to the CBI. Now, they’ll need the state’s permission to conduct any operations in their respective jurisdictions. It’s part of a general air of mistrust between some states and the CBI. However, this withdrawal of general consent might hinder the CBI’s operation, especially in sensitive cases.
Let’s talk basics first. The CBI itself has its origins thanks to an order passed by the British government during the early stages of the first World War. A Special Police Establishment (SPE) working under the then Department of War was created. The mandate was simple – to investigate bribery and corruption in the War and Supply Department.
The CBI’s job is to investigate. This power is granted to them by the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act, 1946. Through a special resolution dated April 1, 1963, the CBI was established. The DSPE gave the CBI power to investigate in Delhi sans permission since it’s the national capital.
There are four ways the CBI can conduct an investigation. The first is when a state government sends a request, and the Centre agrees. The second is when the Supreme Court or any High Court directs the CBI. The third is when a state government issues a notification of consent under Section 6 of the DSPE Act. The fourth is through a Union government notification under Section 5 of the DSPE Act.
General consent is basically asking for permission from a state to conduct an investigation in that particular jurisdiction. There’s a simple reason why this is so. The Constitution states that law and order is a state subject. In March of this year, the Centre said eight states had withdrawn general consent. Mizoram in 2015. West Bengal and Chhattisgarh in November 2018 and January 2019, respectively. Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Kerala, Jharkhand, and Punjab in 2020.
CBI’s functioning hindered
For sensitive, high-profile cases, time is of the essence. The CBI’s job is to get onto the scene as fast as possible with minimal hurdles. In some cases, there’s a possibility of destruction of evidence. However, with several states that are all non-BJP ruled withdrawing general consent, it’s exactly the type of hindrance an investigative agency doesn’t need.
So practically, this is what it looks like – the CBI will need to approach the states on a case-by-case basis. It’s time-consuming and the type of unnecessary bureaucracy that often gets mentioned and rightly criticised. It’s what CBI Director Subodh Jaiswal told the Supreme Court. He said less than 18% of the 150 requests made by the CBI were given consent by the eight states.
The Centre has also stated that the CBI is an autonomous body. It has the power to investigate charges against central government employees without a state’s consent. States can withdraw consent only on a case-by-case basis, keeping public interest in mind. Even if the state employees reside and work within its territorial jurisdiction, the CBI doesn’t need prior consent. It could mean some states don’t want to have certain people or entities investigated.
Concerns of states are valid
Probably the best validation that the states have concerning general consent is the apex court. Last November, a bench of justices A M Khanwilkar and B R Gavai cited Sections 5 and 6 of the DSPE Act. They deal with the jurisdiction and powers of the special police establishment in other states and the right of a state government to exercise their powers.
The argument against general consent ignores a couple of points. First, no one wants a tyrannical power at the Centre that can arbitrarily use its powers. Second, states have rights and powers. These should be protected. There are long-standing assertions and allegations of the CBI being used by the current government as a tool to intimidate and threaten political opponents. Even the Supreme Court once described the CBI as a “caged parrot.”
The onus is on the CBI to figure out why several states have withdrawn consent. The simple answer is to protect themselves from any misuse of the CBI by the Centre. The CBI is partisan to the extent that it often serves whoever the master happens to be at the helm. Hence, courts have had to step in, especially in anti-corruption matters.
As Centre-state relations have been on a downward trend over the past few years, it represents a failure of cooperative federalism. The CBI doesn’t do itself any favours when it doesn’t obey a state’s withdrawal of general consent. One example is a case concerning a Gujarat-based company. The CBI’s Bank Fraud and Security (BF&S) chose to register the case in Mumbai instead of Gujarat, thereby trying to work around the issue of general consent.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
Namaz isn’t an anti-Hindu act. Time for every Indian to defend Islam
For the Left:
From Democracy to Demo“crazy”
🏴 STATE OF THE STATES
Protecting the children (Jammu & Kashmir) – The Union Territory is finally set to have a Commission for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCRs). The Social Welfare Department has even framed the commission’s draft rules under the Commission for Protection of Child Rights Act 2005 for the overall protection of the children. They have also put the draft rules up in the public domain for suggestions and feedback from “individuals closely connected with child rights.” These SCPCRs were set up in all state and union territories except Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh. Now, J&K has one too.
Flood reparations (Assam) – The state government has urged the Centre to release funds for “repair and restoration work” to counter the damage caused by floods and landslides. The government has requested a release of ₹1,088.19 crores under the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF). In fact, they had even asked a central team that was visiting the state for on-site assessment of the situation to “consider erosion as an item admissible under SDRF/NDRF in their report”. According to them, the state suffers a lot due to river erosion every year.
Solar power in farming (Jharkhand) – According to a recent report, solar energy “can help Jharkhand save Rs 12,465 crore and prevent carbon dioxide emission of over 36.4 million tonnes in the next 15 years.” Given that Jharkhand is predominantly an agricultural state, the Centre for Environment and Energy Development (CEED), Jharkhand Renewable Energy Development Agency (JREDA) and the Central University of Jharkhand have even made a roadmap to convert to solar energy. The document chalks out strategic paths that are aided by infrastructure, policy initiative and market support.
Viable milk income (Gujarat) – The price of camel milk has gone up to ₹50 per litre. This has led several camel breeders in Kutch, who were until very recently trying to get rid of their livestock, to reclaim their profession. According to a rough estimate, around 170 camels were brought to the area in the last year alone. As of now, a camel breeder can earn anything from ₹40,000 to ₹1 lakh every month by selling their milk alone. They tell you to not put all your eggs in one basket but what do we do if they are camels?
Opening Mullaperiyar shutters (Kerala) – 3,000 cusecs (cubic feet per second) of water is set to be released from the Mullaperiyar dam on Friday. While this move has been doing rounds in the debate circles, the state is ready for its repercussions. As a result, the Revenue Department of the state has evacuated several people from the Periyar village, Manjumala village and Ayyappancoil village. Relief camps have opened in Peerumade and Idukki taluks. Along with this, control rooms have been set up in Peerumade, Udumbanchola, and Idukki taluks. Disaster management personnel and law enforcement have also been deployed there.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
80% – According to a report by SBI Research, around 80% of India’s economy has been formalised. This is a considerable increase when compared to the 48% in FY18. The report even credits demonetisation for the “accelerated digitisation” of the economy which saw the rise of a gig economy. Thus, rapidly formalising a chunk of the economy.