"Court calls it a caged parrot, government an unbridled horse. CBI wonders who am I?" said CBI director Ranjit Sinha. Caged parrot, the infamous and oft-quoted epithet that CBI earned this year from the Supreme Court, will be hard to shrug off. In the first year of his office, Sinha finds the agency in the midst of an existential crisis. The Supreme Court is monitoring the caged parrot in a bevy of high-profile cases -- the coal block allocation scam, the Niira Radia tapes enquiry and the unfinished business of the 2G spectrum cases. All these will continue into 2014 and are likely to throw up even bigger names.
Whether CBI will train its guns on the big shots is anyone's guess. Having registered 14 FIRs in the coal block allocation case, of which the last one forced a rebuttal from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the investigating agency's challenges in dealing with the most powerful in the land will remain.
The Lok Pal Bill, passed by both the houses, is expected to add its own flavour to this broth. CBI will now be answerable to yet another body and may get more cases referred to it.
"Manpower crunch will pinch CBI more than ever next year as the cases are going to rise. Currently we get our cases from CVC, banks etc. Now we have one more boss. We won't be able to cope up with the work," a retired CBI official said. Roughly 2,500 investigation officers out of the total 6,000 personnel handle around 1,000 cases every year, 66 per cent of which are anti-corruption cases. The agency limits itself to only these cases, and lets go of the rest. The agency throughout the year made headlines with its controversial FIRs that led to the resignations of two ministers from the Union Cabinet, railway minister Pawan Kumar Bansal and law minister Ashwani Kumar.
A few of CBI's high-profile probes led to prison sentences this year. Among them, the Talwar parents in the Arushi murder case, and Rashtriya Janta Dal supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav in the fodder scam, were put behind bars. The agency's chargesheet against the powerful Dayanidhi Maran in the Aircel-Maxis case is still pending. Senior CBI officials indicated status quo on this chargesheet will continue, at least till the general elections. This, in spite SC's watchful eye on the probe progress.
For Sinha, who has witnessed the heated debate on CBI's autonomy and managed to get the director's post some enhanced financial powers, there is a lot left to accomplish in the remaining year of his tenure.