July 21, 2024

By Arjav Sethi

Wikimedia Commons

CBI or Central Bureau of Investigation is the chief investigating agency of the police in India. The CBI is one of the main investigating bodies/agencies which works for the Indian Government to investigate a large number of criminal and national security matters. The Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946 vests investigative powers in the CBI.

Historical Background and Development of CBI Over the Years

During World War II, the Government of British India found it very difficult to cope up with the growing scandalous offenses of bribery and corruption in the procurement of war-related ammunition as the then existing police and military agencies were inadequate to deal with this growing state of affairs. For this, the Government of India in 1941, passed an executive order, “for setting up the Special Police Establishment (SPE) under a DIG in the then Department of War with a mandate to investigate cases of bribery and corruption in transactions with which War and Supply Department of the Government of India was concerned.” [1]

Further, the then Indian British Government in 1943 set up the Special Police Force by issuing an ordinance. The Special Police Force was provided with various powers to investigate various issues of bribery and corruption related to the working of the employees of the Central Government anywhere in British India. The ordinance got nullified on September 30, 1946, and after independence, the same was succeeded by the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act,1946. And it is from this act, the CBI has derived its power since 1946. After independence when India was still grappling with these problems of corruption and frauds and even serious financial frauds, the Government of India realized the need of establishing an agency that could solve such a crisis. Therefore, on 1st April 1963, a bill was passed which laid the foundation of the Central Investigating Agency in Independent India. CBI, when established in 1963 worked under the Ministry of Home Affairs but later on, it functions under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances, and Pensions which is headed by the Prime Minister of India. The headquarters of the CBI is located in New Delhi.

Composition of CBI

Earlier, when CBI was established in 1963 it had 6 divisions-

  1. “Investigation & Anti-Corruption Division (Delhi Special Police Establishment)
  2. Technical Division
  3. Crime Records and Statistics Division
  4. Research Division
  5. Legal and General Division
  6. Administration Division”[2]

But in 2001, as per the instructions of the Supreme Court in “Vineet Narayan and others vs. Union of India,” [3]another department was constituted as the Directorate of prosecution. Following which the CBI has seven departments:

  1. “Anti-Corruption Division
  2. Economic Offences Division
  3. Special Crimes Division
  4. Directorate of Prosecution
  5. Administration Division
  6. Policy & Coordination Division
  7. Central Forensic Science Laboratory”[4]

The CBI is headed by the Inspector General of Police as the CBI director who is responsible for maintaining the functioning and the wellbeing of the organisation. The tenure of the Director of CBI is of two years under the Central Vigilance Act,2003. Earlier, the DSPE Act, 1946 provided for a committee that appointed the director of the CBI. But, later on, the same was amended through the Lokpal Act in 2014 which established a committee for the appointment of the CBI director. The committee comprises of the following:

  • Prime Minister of India as the chairperson of the committee.
  • Other members of the committee include the leader of the opposition or the leader of the single largest opposition party as a member and the chief justice of India or any other senior Judge of Supreme Court of India as a member of the committee.

Functioning of CBI

The CBI is a versatile organisation of the Government of India that investigates corruption-related crimes, fraud crimes, cybercrimes, economic crimes, etc and in many cases, it also investigates conventional crimes such as matters related to murder, rape, blackmailing, etc. “The CBI has jurisdiction to investigate offences pertaining to 69 Central laws, 18 State Acts, and 231 offences in the IPC.” [5]The working of the CBI has a major impact on the economic and political conditions in our country. Following are the broad criminal cases which are handled by the CBI –

  • “Corruption and fraud by public servants in all Central Government Departments, Central Public Sector Undertakings, and Central Financial Institutions.
  • Economic crimes include bank frauds, financial frauds, Import-Export & Foreign Exchange violations, large-scale narcotics, antiques, cultural property smuggling, and smuggling of other contraband items, among other things.
  • Terrorism, bomb blasts, sensational homicides, kidnapping for ransom, and crimes committed by the mafia/underworld are examples of special crimes.”[6]

Criticism and Shortcomings

One of the main criticisms is regarding the efficiency of the CBI and its often-partial attitude while handling high-profile cases of politicians and government officials. Many people often argue about the independence of the organisation and the constant political interference in the working of the organisation. For the same, the “Supreme Court of India has criticised the CBI by calling it a “caged parrot speaking in its master’s voice”, due to excessive political interference in its functioning.”[7] CBI is also known as a tool of the Government Of India for keeping the opposition in check and it is also often alleged that CBI also covers up the misdoings of the government and also covers up the failures of the government. The credibility of CBI is also often questioned by the public due to the mishandling of various high-profile cases by the organisation such as the Jain Hawala case, Bhopal Gas tragedy, etc.

Another main criticism is regarding the lack of accountability of the organisation, as the CBI does not fall under the provisions of the Right to Information Act, thus having no public accountability at all. The CBI along with lack of accountability also has a lack of powers while investigating cases. To combat corruption in higher bureaucracy the organisation cannot start an investigation on its own. “Prior approval of government is required to conduct an investigation on the employees of the Central Government, of the level of Joint Secretary and above.[8]The power to conduct an inquiry in any state by the CBI is also dependent on the approval of the concerned State government. These provisions seriously limit the power of the CBI to conduct a proper inquiry.


Having an organization such as the CBI can be very beneficial for any country to avoid major financial crimes by the government officials and thus, making them accountable to the public. But, to work fearlessly and independently, an organisation should be free from any political interference. For the same, a lot of work needs to be done by our lawmakers to delink such an organisation from working under the government and making them independent in every aspect so that fairness can be established while investigating cases.   

[1] https://cbi.gov.in/About-Us.

[2] https://cbi.gov.in/About-Us.

[3] Vineet Narayan and others vs. Union of India, 1 SCC 226.

[4] https://cbi.gov.in/About-Us.

[5] https://www.drishtiias.com/daily-updates/daily-news-analysis/appointment-of-cbi-director-1.

[6] https://cbi.gov.in/CBI-its-Roles.

[7] https://www.civilsdaily.com/central-bureau-of-investigation-composition-functions/.

[8] https://www.drishtiias.com/printpdf/central-bureau-of-investigation-cbi.

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