Attributing the BJP’s recent victory in UP elections to his Government’s policies of development and its fight against corruption, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his victory speech, had said, “People expect us to punish the corrupt and take strict action. But when we take action, the Opposition parties and their ecosystem shields the corrupt by defaming independent investigating agencies”.
His remarks assume significance in view of ongoing probes against Opposition politicians by the CBI and other investigative agencies and attempts by many non-BJP ruled states to delay or stall these.
There is a global consensus about the direct link between development and corruption. Several studies by the United Nations Development Programme have established that corruption and underdevelopment are intrinsically linked and likely to reinforce each other.
The fight against corruption is also at the core of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the UN’s 2030 Agenda. In India, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is the Government’s most potent weapon to eliminate corruption.
Like every law enforcement agency, it has its share of bouquets and brickbats. Ironically, while successive parties have taken credit for their successful performance when in power, the same parties change their tune when they are in the opposition.
However, political polemic has not been able to dent its credibility as the nation’s most professional investigating agency. Whenever the state police forces fail to act, people from all over the country demand a CBI probe. On many occasions, the Supreme Court and various High Courts have entrusted CBI with sensitive investigations.
Since zero-tolerance for corruption was Modi’s avowed slogan since he took power, he has given a free hand to the CBI and other agencies involved in fighting corruption, money laundering, tax evasion, and indulging in black money operations.
In answer to the charges of using these agencies, his Government has not only ensured them full autonomy but taken several measures to give them more powers to act freely.
The Government’s recent move to extend the fixed tenure of the directors of the CBI and Enforcement Directorate is part of this effort. Earlier the tenure was fixed for two years to ensure their independence on the prod of the Supreme Court.
During the last seven years of the Modi regime, the CBI has unearthed a number of high-profile cases of corruption in high places. The latest in the list is filing a charge sheet against former Defence Secretary Shashi Kant Sharma in connection with the Rs 3,600-crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper case in which former Air Vice-Marshal Jasbir Singh Panesar and other brass of the Defence establishment have been already booked.
It also recently unearthed one of Asia’s biggest bank frauds in which the Chairman and Managing Director of the ABG Shipyard Ltd were charged with fraudulent transactions worth ₹22,842 crores. The transactions were made between 2005 and 2012 by a consortium of 28 banks led by ICICI Bank and SBI.
Similar big frauds perpetrated during previous regimes have been unearthed by the CBI during the last five years. The agency has already completed the investigation and filed charge sheets against notorious business tycoons like Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi, and Mehul Choksi.
Though these high-profile fugitives have fled the country, the Government is pursuing their extradition zealously. It has already won an initial legal battle against Mallya in UK courts, thanks to the watertight case. The Government and its investigating agencies are using all resources—legal and diplomatic—to expedite the early return of Nirav Modi and Choksi also,
Though the extradition of fugitives from foreign countries has been a tedious task in the past, the Modi Government has entered into extradition treaties with a number of governments to facilitate the process.