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Managerial Lessons From The CBI Imbroglio

The CBI imbroglio has lessons for all – government, bureaucracy, corporate world and the citizen

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The facts are well known: Director CBI felt it fit to initiate the prosecution of his next-in-command and in return faced written accusation for his motive in doing that. The government intervened in a midnight swoop – sealed the office of the Director and the Special Director and sent them on indefinite forced leave. The newly appointed Director transferred a whole sheaf of officers connected with the various ongoing investigations. 

The clearest understanding of this matter can be gleaned by analyzing the Supreme Court’s lucid interim judgement:

  • There will be an inquiry on the allegations against the deposed Director CBI. This inquiry will be completed in two weeks from the date of the interim judgement
  • That the inquiry will be conducted under the supervision of a retired judge of the Supreme Court, who is expected to ensure the timelines
  • That the officer deputed to hold charge of Director CBI in the interim would not take any policy or major decisions and will only perform the routine tasks
  • That the Supreme Court will review all the decisions taken by the in-charge Director – including decisions with regard to transfer of investigations, change of investigating officers
  • That the supervision of the inquiry against the Director of CBI by a Judge is only a one-time exception because of the peculiar facts of this case

Parsing through this interim judgement of the Supreme Court, there are some clear and undeniable administrative and legal pointers. Firstly, it bares the chinks in the selection process of top government functionaries. Second, it questions the neutrality of the Vigilance Commission, albeit in this case only. Third, it raises a finger at the new appointee – his objectivity – in taking critical decisions within minutes of taking charge. In brief, it has hinted its discomfort with the manner in which a sensitive public-interest subject like vigilance is handled in the government.

Selection to top jobs and critical assignments must entail the highest level of rigor, even if it is time-consuming. People need to be selected on a wide range of parameters comprising of – merit, emotional maturity, integrity and experience of the specific job requirements. Having a Selection Committee, as in the case of Director CBI – comprising of Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition and Chief Justice of India – should not just be an exercise in finding a compromise candidate in terms of political acceptability, but on all other objective counts as well. And this rigor must extend to selections at several levels below too. Once posted, top officers should be given full freedom, trust and space so that they will never have to be removed merely because of attitudinal transgressions or because their motives are suddenly suspect. As they usually say at Commencement time in Harvard University, “one of the top guarded secrets is that we never fail anybody. That’s because each application passes the highest level of rigor and scrutiny.”

Not allowing the person at the helm to build his team and distrusting him half-way can spell bickering, misconduct, internecine politics and fracas. Mechanisms and mentoring systems will have to be developed to prevent misconduct and mutual recrimination between top functionaries. Letting things pass and hoping they will resolve themselves – causes senseless loss all along – with mindless collateral damage. The loss is not just of the protagonists in the drama, but more abundantly that of the organization and the principals (or shareholders) who own it.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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cbi probe magazine 27 October 2018

Raghav Chandra

Former Secretary Government of India

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