New Delhi: The Supreme Court Wednesday termed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) a "caged parrot" that "speaks in its master's voice" and asked the government whether it intended to make the agency's functioning independent.
"It is a caged parrot speaking in its master's voice," a bench headed by Justice R.M. Lodha said, adding: "It's a sordid saga that there are many masters and one parrot."
The court's observations came on CBI director Ranjit Sinha's second affidavit filed on Monday stating that Law Minister Ashwani Kumar and senior officials of the Prime Minister's Office and the coal ministry had made certain changes in the report on the allocation of coal blocks.
The bench also asked the government whether it was contemplating a law to make the working of the CBI independent and insulate it from extraneous intrusion and interferences.
There are other ways of bringing the law, Justice Lodha said, apparently pointing to ordinance route as parliament adjourned sine die Wednesday two days ahead of scheduled.
"The best things would be that such a law is put in place before the next hearing of the case (July 10) so that there would be an impartial and non-partisan independent investigating agency," the judge said.
Pointing to such a scenario, Justice Lodha said: "It would be golden. It would really be wonderful."
Making it clear that choice was with the government, the bench, which also included Justice Madan B.Lokur and Justice Kurian Joseph said in case government dithered, it would step in.
"If the CBI is not made independent, we will step in," it observed adding that "CBI must know how to stand up against all pulls and pressures by government and its officials."
Referring to the changes in the CBI status report, the court asked "whether central government intends to bring some law to ensure the independence of CBI and its functional autonomy and insulate it from extraneous influences and interferences and make it a non-partisan investigating agency".
The court's poser came as it said that it wanted to know the government's position before it could embark on an exercise to make the CBI's functioning independent and free from political and extraneous interferences.
"We would like to know the government's position before any exercise by us to ensure that the CBI functioned effectively, efficiently and independently particularly in cases regarding corruption," the bench stated.
As Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati told the court he would seek instructions from the government on this point, the court, while referring to its judgment in Vineet Narain case in mid-1990s - when it had passed orders to check political and other interferences in the CBI's working - Justice Lodha said that "after so many years we are at the worst stage."
Asking the attorney general whether it should undertake the exercise to make CBI independent and effective, the court asked if government was inclined to "enact an effective law in a particular time".
"We want an unambiguous assurance, very clear and candid assurance from you that law will be in place in a particular time", Justice Lodha told Vahanvati.
The apex court also questioned the credibility of the CBI probe into the allocation of coal blocks and asked for a thorough and qualitative investigation.
Expressing displeasure at the government's interference in the coal allocation probe report, the court said, "the heart of the report was changed on the suggestions of the government officials".
Asking the government to make the investigating agency impartial, the apex court said it needs to be ensured that the CBI functions free of all external pressures.
It also said that the "job of CBI is not to interact with government officials but to interrogate to find the truth".
The court said the agency "must know how to stand up against all pulls and pressures by government and its officials."