In popular belief, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) comes into the picture only when the courts or the government thinks a serious crime has been committed and the local police or administration may not have enough resources or skill-set to investigate that. Most of the talked about cases handled by the CBI are indeed of such nature, however, this doesn’t mean that all cases handled by the CBI are of this nature only.
The fact is that private parties can approach the CBI, and also that the bureau does register cases more often than commonly believed. Just go through the Press Releases issued by the CBI on their website and you can see the frequency of new cases being registered following complaint by various parties that are neither governments nor courts.
There are many examples one can find if one makes a little effort. A recent one being of Anand Rai, better known as the whistleblower of the Vyapam scam of Madhya Pradesh, who filed a complaint directly with the CBI in in July 2015. Rai could file a complaint when BJP was in power both in the state and at centre. Basically, you don’t need to be in favour of the ruling party to approach the CBI. The case was finally handed over to the CBI with courts monitoring it.
When Prashant Bhushan was in AAP, he too had filed complaint with the CBI against a then union minister Praful Patel back in 2013. And as recent as three months ago, a businessman had filed a complaint with the CBI against former union minister P Chidambaram.
On its website under the Frequently Asked Questions and Contact Us pages, CBI makes it amply clear that people can file a complaint with it for Cyber Crimes, Economic Crimes, Human Trafficking, etc. though it tells people not to approach it for conventional crimes like murder, theft, robbery etc., because they are taken up by the CBI only after being directed by the Supreme Court / High Courts or referred by the State Governments.
Now the common man may not be aware of all this, but a journalist should be. Or at least the journalist should make an effort to find out about these before making comments and passing judgments. But when it comes to pushing propaganda, these things don’t matter.
And that’s what happened today when a news report was shared informing that CBI has registered a case following a complaint filed by Paytm – the digital wallet provider – for a suspected economic fraud.
The news was reported by news agency PTI – and thus was blindly copied and shared by all news organisations – and its reporter had this additional comment to pass:
— Abhishek (@abhishekPTI) December 16, 2016
Not Delhi Police because a cyber fraud can take place from anywhere? Better to approach the CBI if the rules allow so that there is no quarrel of “jurisdiction”? But to realise this, you either need to know the rules or be not driven by propaganda.
Nonetheless, once the doubt was seeded, it was followed up and amplified by senior and “respected” journalists like Shekhar Gupta, who too outraged without considering the facts we put in in the beginning in this article. Is he not aware of those facts?
What’s going on? Why CBI? Has govt nationalised Paytm? Or has it taken over government? Is CBI underemployed? Or has it been privatised? https://t.co/QSMl0QbjEd
— Shekhar Gupta (@ShekharGupta) December 16, 2016
Once the outrage was given credibility by “respected” journalists, the not-so-respected ones jumped in adding a dash of conspiracy theory aligned with Kejriwal’s politics:
CBI’s intervention in Paytm complaint is rare. Shows just how powerful the company has become. Its proximity to govt is scary! https://t.co/i8MaR3fdkG
— Rifat Jawaid (@RifatJawaid) December 16, 2016
And when the incumbent union government is involved, how can Arvind Kejriwal be far away?
जब मोदी जी ख़ुद PayTM के ad में आ गए तो अब तो मोदी सरकार PayTM की जेब में है। CBI की हिम्मत नहीं कि PayTM के ऑर्डर को ना माने। https://t.co/tC0sKA6xzX
— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) December 16, 2016
This was followed by all AAP aligned journalists and trolls showering hate on Paytm again, which has replaced Ambani-Adani for the duration of demonetisation.
With this manufactured outrage growing, the CBI clarified (which it would not have needed to, if the journalists had done some basic google search) that it had the rights to register such cases. Not just Paytm, the CBI had registered cases following complaints by companies like Snapdeal, Google, ICICI pockets, etc. So there was no special treatment given to Paytm as the AAP journalists tried to suggest.
The CBI further informed that a similar complaint by Paytm was registered by it in August this year too. But then no demonetisation drive was in place, so it didn’t cause any outrage by Arvind Kejriwal and the assorted knowledgeable journalists.