CBI Current Affairs - 2020

SC verdict on reinstating CBI chief Alok Kumar Verma: Key Facts

The Supreme Court of India has reinstated CBI director Alok Kumar Verma, setting aside the Centre’s order to divest him of his powers. The Supreme Court has restrained him from taking any major policy decision till the CVC probe into corruption charges against him is over.

Observations made by the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has further asked the high-powered committee which selects and appoints the CBI director to take any further decisions once the CVC submits its report after the probe.

The selection committee of the CBI director comprises the Prime Minister, the leader of opposition and the Chief Justice of India.

There is no provision in the law which permits the government to divest the CBI director of his powers and functions without prior consent from the high powered select committee.

Supreme Court cited the Vineet Narain verdict of 1997 where the Supreme Court underlined the fact that the tenure of the CBI director had been fixed to two years after the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act.

Vineet Narain verdict of 1997

The Supreme Court had delivered a landmark verdict in the case of Vineet Narain vs Union of India case, popularly known as the Jain hawala case. The Supreme Court in its verdict had pronounced measures to shield the CBI director from outside interference and make the director’s post more transparent. The measures are:

  • The CBI director shall have a minimum tenure of two years, regardless of the date of his superannuation.
  • The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) shall be responsible for the efficient functioning of CBI.
  • The transfer of an incumbent Director, CBI in an extraordinary situation, including the need for him to take up a more important assignment, should have the approval of the selection committee.

The Supreme Court had laid down these measures recognising the need to provide permanent insulation to agencies such as CBI against extraneous influences to enable them to discharge their duties in the manner required for proper implementation of the rule of law.

PIL in Supreme Court against govt’s order to snoop on computers

A PIL has been filed in the Supreme Court by advocate Manohar Lal Sharma challenging the government’s notification authorising 10 central agencies to intercept, monitor and decrypt any computer system.

What was the Order of the Home Ministry?

As per the notification of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, 10 central probe and snoop agencies are empowered under the Information Technology (IT) Act to carry out interception and analysis of data stored in any computer.

The 10 agencies empowered were Intelligence Bureau, Narcotics Control Bureau, Enforcement Directorate, the Central Board of Direct Taxes (for Income Tax Department), Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Central Bureau of Investigation, National Investigation Agency, the Research and Analysis Wing, Directorate of Signal Intelligence (in service areas of J-K, North East and Assam) and Delhi Police commissioner.

The order binds the service providers or any person in charge of the computer resource to extend all facilities and technical assistance to the agencies and a failure to do so is penalised with seven-year imprisonment and fine.

Why the order has been challenged?

The reasons cited by the Advocate Manohar Lal Sharma in his PIL are:

  • The notification was illegal, unconstitutional and ultra vires to the law.
  • The notification was being issued to restrict the political opponent, thinker and speaker to control the entire country under dictatorship to win coming general election under an undisclosed emergency as well as slavery which cannot be permitted within the Constitution of India.
  • The notification provides for blanket surveillance which must be tested against the fundamental right to privacy.
  • The notification enables the state to access every communication, computer and mobile and to use it to protect the political interest and object of the present executive political party.
  • The notification tries to create a surveillance state.

The government has defended the decision citing national security and claiming that the order was a mere repetition of the rules passed during the UPA regime in 2009.