Kerala on Wednesday joined the list of non-BJP-ruled states of West Bengal, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra to withdraw its general consent given to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The decision, which was on the table for quite some time, was finalised in the Cabinet meeting. From now on, the probe agency will have to seek prior permission from the state government before registering a case in the state.
Recently, Maharashtra’s Maha Vikas Aghadi government decided to block the CBI in the stats. The decision saw an uproar as the decision was announced a day after CBI decided to investigate the TRP scam in Maharashtra. The state government is at a critical juncture where it is raging several wars against the Centre. Blocking CBI in the state, therefore, was seen as a salvo against the Centre which raised doubt over Mumbai Police’s investigation into Sushant Singh Rajput’s death.
CBI comes under the DSPE Act and it requires states to give the agency a general consent to act against central government employees within a state as public order and police come under the state governments, which routinely renew this permission.
In late 2018, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh withdrew the general consent to CBI for investigations, alleging that the Centre was misusing the agency to harass opponents. However, the government of YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, which came into power in Andhra 2019, reversed the decision.
Chhattisgarh, ruled by the Congress, withdrew the general consent to CBI in January 2019. And in July 2020, the Ashok Gehlot-led government in Rajasthan followed suit.
The Kerala government and the CBI are at odds owing to the latter’s ongoing probe into Life Mission, a state housing project for homeless. The CBI was probing alleged irregularities in this project. In October, the Kerala high court stayed CBI investigation considering a plea by the state government.