04 Apr 2024  |   05:06am IST


The Central agencies under the government play a crucial role in ensuring a transparent, ethical, objective, accountable and responsive system of governance. While they assist the government, they are expected to function independently without any pressure or prejudice against any organisation or individual. However, over the years, especially during the last decade, the agencies have proved otherwise and according to experts, these agencies have become a ‘weapon’ of the central government.

The most talked about case currently is the alleged Delhi liquor scam, in which former the Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi, Manish Sisodia, has been behind bars for more than a year. On February 26, 2023, Sisodia was first arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), and by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) a month later, in the Excise Policy case. While the CBI is examining the criminal aspect of the case, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) is probing the alleged money laundering angle. Sisodia is the key aide of Delhi chief minister and AAP convenor Arvind Kejriwal. At the time of his arrest, he was handling 18 out of 33 portfolios in the Delhi government.

Last month, ED arrested a sitting Chief Minister of the State, Kejriwal, who has since been performing his duties from the jail. He has now been named as a ‘kingpin’ in the liquor scam and allegations of receiving kickbacks to the tune of hundreds of crores have been levelled against him. 

Sanjay Singh, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) Rajya Sabha MP was arrested by the ED in October last year. After spending six months in Tihar Jail, Singh was released on bail by the Supreme Court on Tuesday, April 2. He was earlier named as the key conspirator and kingpin in the scam and alleged that he received a bribe of Rs 2 crore. When the Apex Court demanded evidence and documents to prove his involvement in the alleged scam, the ED couldn't establish a trail and provide no documentary evidence before the Court. The Supreme Court had asked if any money was recovered, but neither any money was recovered nor any cash transaction details could be established connecting to Singh. The ED’s case relied solely on the 10th statement of the first accused person in the case, Sarath Reddy, director of a pharma company. Ironically, Reddy turned approver and also contributed more than Rs 50 crore via Electoral Bonds to the Bharatiya Janata Party.

While Singh has been granted bail, Sisodia and Kejriwal remain in Tihar jail, because of the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), the onus to prove one’s innocence lies on the accused. Usually, the Indian judicial system functions on ‘innocent until proven guilty’, however, under PMLA it is ‘guilty until proven innocent’. Under PMLA, there is no provision for bail until the Court is totally convinced that there is no prima facie case against the accused

On the other hand, Rahul Gandhi, the leader of the Indian National Congress, was disqualified as a member of the Lok Sabha on March 24, 2023, after a local Court convicted him for making defamatory statements against the community with the surname, ‘Modi’. The Parliament which is expected to function independently, disqualified Gandhi even before he could appeal his case in any of the higher courts. 

Hundreds and thousands of activists have been languishing in Indian jails due to the failure of the agencies to provide a fair trial to those accused in several serious allegations including under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). For example, on September 13, 2020, the Delhi Police Special Cell arrested Khalid, a student activist, after accusing him of inciting communal violence through speeches in February 2020. Khalid and several other student activists including Gulfisha Fatima, Sharjeel Imam, Meraan Haider and Khalid Saifi, to name a few, were arrested for leading peaceful protests opposing the Citizen Amendment Act (CAA)and booked under Arms Act and UAPA. 

During the same time, in January 2020, when Delhi was witnessing violence and tensions owing to the anti-CAA protests, Rambhakt Gopal, a youth had shot at an anti-CAA protester outside Jamia Milia Islamia. He roams free in the country after 14-day custody in a protective home initially.

The CAG which had shot to fame ahead of the 2014 elections by publishing reports that alleged possible loss of lakhs of crores to the exchequer has been in slumber for some time.

The freezing of accounts of the principal Opposition party, the Congress, and the arrest of Hemant Soren who resigned as Chief Minister of Jharkhand before his arrest, are just a few examples of how the agencies have acted selectively against some and silent on others. 

Therefore the question that arises is, have the agencies failed in their duty of upholding their Constitutional duty of being apolitical and ensuring that everyone is equal before the law?


Iddhar Udhar