The government of Chief Minister Eknath Shinde has restored general consent to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to investigate cases in Maharashtra, reversing the decision of the state’s previous Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government.

 

What is ‘general consent’?

  • General consent is normally given by states to help the CBI in the seamless investigation of cases of corruption against central government employees in their states. This is essentially consent by default, which means CBI may begin investigations taking consent as having been already given.
  • In the absence of general consent, CBI would have to apply to the state government for its consent in every individual case, and before taking even small actions.

 

Background

  • Last year, the Maharashtra government had withdrawn “general consent” given to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to probe cases in the state. The decision meant that the central agency had to get consent from the state government for every case it registered in Maharashtra.
  • CBI is governed by The Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act, 1946, and it must mandatorily obtain the consent of the state government concerned before beginning to investigate a crime in a state.

 

Impact of withdrawal of ‘general consent’ –

  • The decision increased work for both the CBI and the state government. Every time the CBI traps some central government employee taking a bribe, it would need to seek approval from the Maharashtra government before registering a case.
  • Similarly, the Maharashtra government department too was burdened with approval requests on a case-by-case basis.
  • The CBI later started taking recourse in a Calcutta High Court judgment. The HC, in its order in the Ramesh Chandra Singh and another vs CBI, observed that “the court is of the view that the central government/CBIs power to investigate and prosecute its own officials cannot be in any way impeded or interfered by the state even if the offences were committed within the territory of the state.”

 

Types of cases in which CBI is involved at a state level –

The CBI is divided into three categories when it comes to investigation –

  • The first is the Anti-Corruption Division that investigates cases against public servants under the control of the central government, public servants in public sector undertakings, also under the control of the central government, cases against public servants working under state governments, which have been entrusted to the CBI by the state, and serious departmental irregularities committed by the above mentioned.
  • The Economic Offences Division investigates financial crimes, bank frauds, money laundering, illegal money market operations, graft in PSUs and banks.
  • The Special Crimes Division handles cases of conventional nature such as offences relating to internal security, espionage, sabotage, narcotics and psychotropic substances, antiquities, murders, dacoities/robberies, and cheating among others.