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Analysis: India looks to bolster CBI

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Kushal Jeena
New Delhi (UPI) Mar 13, 2008
An Indian parliamentary panel has asked the government to grant statutory powers to the Central Bureau of Investigation to directly look into crimes related to terrorist attacks and human trafficking.

The panel, attached to the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice under which the CBI, India's top investigating agency, falls, in its report submitted to Parliament Tuesday said vesting CBI with appropriate statutory backing would enable the agency to play a proactive role in collection of intelligence, creating institutional memory and capacity-building.

"We (committee) are of the view that it is in the public interest that in this era of successive waves of terrorist attacks and high technical crimes, a statute is enacted through Parliament granting powers to the CBI to directly deal with terror strikes and other serious crimes like human-trafficking," said E.M. Sudarsana Natchiappan, chairman of the standing committee.

Natchiappan said a delay in handing over cases to the investigative agency gives criminals enough time to escape. The report pointed out that current laws don't allow the CBI to begin investigations on its own, adding by the time state governments or courts ask the agency to look into a crime, crucial evidence gets destroyed.

The report recommended that an anti-terrorism unit in the CBI be created to give attention to prevention of terrorist attacks. The panel blamed multiple authorities for the confusion in dealing with intelligence inputs, allowing terrorists to carry out attacks.

"The CBI should be the coordinating agency since the time an intelligence input is received," the report said. "It should work with the intelligence agencies and then should automatically be allowed to work alongside the state police for the prevention of attacks."

There had been instances in which states hadn't acted on intelligence inputs on terrorist attacks and later blamed the federal government. The panel said state police agencies should see the CBI as complementary and not as intrusive.

The committee said it backs a federal role for the CBI saying such a role, similar to that of the FBI in the United States, would not lead to a tussle with states. Only two northern Indian states -- Punjab and Himachal Pradesh -- agreed to the proposal to enable the CBI to investigate crimes directly. Other states are undecided.

"Every Indian, whether he is a native of a particular state or not, has a right to protection by the government, which has a corresponding obligation," the report said. "Vesting the CBI to take suo motu cognizance of crimes would in no way affect the essentials of our federal structure."

Natchiappan said the members of the committee, which represents lawmakers from all political parties in the two houses of Parliament, also went into details of possible legislation empowering the CBI and said the constitution grants the CBI the necessary mandate and empowers the federal government to enact a statute to this effect.

"This report may be formulated as the source for Central Bureau of Intelligence and Investigation Bill and DPSE Act should be amended to take CBI out of its purview. This Act may also be repealed," the committee said.

India set up the CBI in 1963 to investigate not only corruption, but also violations of federal fiscal laws, major fraud, crimes on high seas, airlines and organized crime. It is not a multifaceted investigative agency, its role is expanding from corruption to other crimes relating to cyber, terrorism, wildlife, narcotics, arms trafficking, arts and counterfeiting. The agency has seven divisions: anti-corruption, economic offenses, directorate of prosecution, administrative, policy, coordination and central forensic science laboratory.

But it faces a severe staff shortage and is overburdened with cases, leading to calls for similar agencies to be set up. The committee looked into this aspect and said more agencies would lead to overlapping of jurisdictions, conflict of interests and underutilization of human resources.

"The CBI is the organization, which is well-equipped to investigate terrorist attacks. The report of the parliamentary standing committee has rightly recommended that an anti-terrorism cell should be created in the CBI. What the government should immediately do is to provide highly advanced training and infrastructure and equipments to the CBI sleuths to carry out the probe in more scientific and effective manner," said Ajai Sahani, executive director of the Institute of Conflict Management, a non-governmental think tank.

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NATO urges Russia to tone down anti-alliance rhetoric
Moscow (AFP) March 12, 2008
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