CBI’s Autonomy Affirmed: Central Government’s Hands-Off

"Recent developments emphasize the CBI's independence in investigations."

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CBI's Autonomy Affirmed: Central Government’s Hands-Off

9th November 2023, Mumbai: The Supreme Court witnessed a confrontation on Thursday as the Central Government asserted its lack of functional control over the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the government, argued that despite the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) being the cadre-controlling authority, it cannot direct case registration or monitor investigations conducted by the CBI.

West Bengal Challenges CBI’s Actions, Labeling Suit “Mischievous”

The ongoing legal battle unfolded as the West Bengal government questioned the CBI’s authority to probe cases after the state withdrew consent under the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act in 2018. Describing the suit as “mischievous,” Mehta highlighted its misdirection, targeting the Union government through the DoPT instead of directly addressing the CBI, the agency responsible for the registered cases.

CBI Defended as an Independent Entity, Beyond Government Control

In a bid to disassociate from the CBI’s actions, Mehta emphasized that the CBI operates independently, and the central government holds no superintendence or control over its functioning. Despite the DoPT being the cadre-controlling authority, Mehta clarified that it does not exert “functional control” regarding case investigations, presenting the CBI as a distinct and autonomous body.

Supreme Court Acknowledges Administrative Oversight, Questions Jurisdiction

While acknowledging administrative control over the CBI, the Supreme Court bench, comprising Justices BR Gavai and Aravind Kumar, raised concerns about the government’s lack of intervention in investigations. Mehta clarified that, per the Allocation of Business Rules, the DoPT falls under the Union Government but maintains no sway over the CBI’s investigative processes.

Legal Dispute Unveils Federalism Concerns and Jurisdiction Challenges

The legal clash expanded to include issues of federalism and jurisdiction as Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, representing West Bengal, argued against the Centre’s stance. Sibal contended that the relief sought in the suit is against the Centre’s power under the DSPE Act to determine the jurisdiction of CBI cases. He emphasized the impact on the principle of federalism, questioning the Centre’s ability to investigate state offenses after consent withdrawal, potentially undermining the Constitution’s basic structure.


1. Can the Central Government control the CBI’s investigations according to recent developments?

   Answer: No, the Central Government has asserted its lack of functional control over the CBI, emphasizing its independence in investigations.

2. What prompted the legal battle between the Central Government and West Bengal regarding the CBI’s actions?

   Answer: The legal battle unfolded as West Bengal questioned the CBI’s authority to probe cases after the state withdrew consent under the DSPE Act in 2018.

3. Is the CBI considered an independent entity beyond the control of the government?

   Answer: Yes, the CBI is defended as an independent entity beyond government control, as per Solicitor General Tushar Mehta’s statements.

4. What concerns did the Supreme Court express regarding the CBI’s administrative oversight?

   Answer: The Supreme Court acknowledged administrative control but raised concerns about the government’s lack of intervention in CBI investigations.

5. How did the legal dispute unveil federalism concerns and jurisdiction challenges?

   Answer: The legal clash highlighted issues of federalism and jurisdiction, with concerns raised about the Centre’s power to determine CBI’s jurisdiction, impacting the principle of federalism.

6. What clarification was provided regarding the Department of Personnel and Training’s role in CBI investigations?

   Answer: Despite being the cadre-controlling authority, the DoPT does not exert functional control over CBI investigations, clarifying the CBI’s autonomy.

By Yashika Desai

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