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Wednesday, 13 November 2013 01:26
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The finance minister is right in pointing out losses don’t necessarily add up to criminality

While the large number of corruption cases in recent years point to the greater need for CBI to work efficiently, and with functional autonomy, both the PM and the FM have done well to make the distinction between policy-making and policing. Indeed, as the FM has pointed out, proving any crime needs mens rea, that is a criminal state of mind. Just because a loss has been caused—by a bank loan going bad—does not necessarily prove there was criminal intent. As this newspaper argued when the CBI named KM Birla in the coalgate scam, given that there was no policy of auctioning coal mines, the only way Birla could have got the mine was to lobby with government officials and politicians—and unlike many others, he had thousands of crore of investments riding on getting those mines. What is the CBI to do in such a case where there is no stated policy that has been violated? In the absence of a money trail, precious little actually since it cannot be the CBI’s job to decide what government policy should have been.

Equally, there is an onus on the government. While a Birla getting caught in the net makes the CBI look like a keystone cop, there are several cases where people who did not deserve licenses—and we’re not just talking about coalgate—were given them. What the government needs to do is to ensure it lays down a transparent policy, so no undeserving person gets a coal mine or precious telecom spectrum for that matter. In no case where auctions were held while giving out telecom licenses/spectrum, for instance, has there been any question asked by either the CAG or the CBI. Though the two are distinct, while investigating agencies need to observe the line between policy-making and policing, it is equally incumbent on government to come out with good policy.


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