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State Police versus Central Bureau of Investigation

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the State Police have recently held a prominent status on media, getting bouquets from some and brickbats from others, in the light of #JusticeforSSR. These institutions have been criticized for their inefficiency and failure to function impartially and objectively. However, the two investigating agencies, as it stands today, are subjected to two main forces pulling in different directions. On one hand, the absolute power given to CBI and State Police, subject to their inherent jurisdiction, acts as the driving force behind their operation. While on the other hand, the firm demarcation between the areas of operation that each of these institutions is subjected to, to suit the investigating procedures. To recognize and understand the dynamics of CBI and State Police, this paper will discuss several key factors that influence their functioning. 

Jurisdiction of CBI vis-à-vis State Police

State Police, as an investigating authority, is empowered by the State Government and reports to the Chief Minister. However, CBI is a Central Investigating Authority, which reports to the Central Government and the Prime Minister of the Country. CBI’s jurisdiction lies with investigating crimes involving influential persons that have interstate and international ramifications. State Police, on the other hand, is equipped to deal with cases emerging out of the State. Owing to this difference, CBI is considered to be better equipped than State Police, concerning skill and impartiality; however, CBI is also seen as a hotbed of politically motivated servants who are effortlessly influenced.

Areas of Operation

Law & Order is a State Subject[1], and the State Police holds the jurisdiction to investigate. Therefore, CBI has limited subjects and cases to investigate, viz., Anti-Corruption[2], Economic Crimes[3], and Special Crimes[4]. CBI deals with claims against the Central Government or breach of Central Laws, cases of fraud, cheating, embezzlement, and professional crimes that have widespread consequences. On the other hand, State Police is mainly equipped to deal with any Law and Order problem arising out of the State, which includes maintaining peace and conformity.

CBI can also investigate cases that have been registered by the State Police through a formal request by the State Government that is accepted by the Central Government; in addition to the fulfilment of formalities under Section 5[5] & 6[6] of the DSPE Act. The case can also be transferred when the Supreme Court or the High Court orders CBI to take up such investigation.[7] Unlike State Police, CBI cannot investigate cases Suo-Motu.[8]

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Appointment of Officers and Tenure

The State Government appoints Police Officers, but the Central Government appoints the CBI officers; consisting of Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition and Chief Justice of India. The Union appoints IPS officers, but they work under the State after allotment of cadres. CBI Director has a tenure of 2 years; however, Chief of State Police has no such term and can be removed anytime by the State Government.

A Critique

“The police force has been abused systematically by successive governments at the centre and in the states. Its independence has been undermined, and its morale sapped.
The wonder is that it is still able to perform.”

CBI is considered to be better fitted than the State Police, for the “officers of CBI would rise to the occasion to ensure that the unvarnished truth of the matter is revealed to uphold the interest of fairness of the investigation process.”[10] However, the stature of CBI has been compromised, as there are situations where CBI has been reluctant to take cases where there is primary involvement of a politician or an influential person in power. There are several instances where CBI has been hesitant and partial; for instance, Judeo-Jogi[11], Haren Pandya Murder[12], Bofors[13], HDW Submarine[14], Priyadarshini Mattoo murder[15], 2008 Noida Double Murder[16], Sister Abhaya[17], Malankar Varghese murder, 2G Spectrum, etc. CBI is also held accountable for violating the fundamental Rights to Privacy under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.[18]

CBI’s controversial role is supported by lack of a legislative statute that defines its role, powers, functions and status. Effective implementation and framework are essential in order to maintain the image of CBI.  State Police Forces are poorly managed and more contentious than the CBI. Police forces are easily influenced owing to their functions of investigation, apart from various other parts they carry out. In addition to this, the rising cases of police brutality by the State Police is the primary reason as to why CBI is considered superior to the State. State Police has been criticized for engaging in wrongful prosecution, corruption and nepotism.[19] CBI and State Police, both seem to lack the autonomy to function as an independent agency, to make decisions that will not violate the rights of the others and to follow the orders of the Government and the Judiciary.

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[1] Entry 1 (Public Order) and Entry 2 (Police) of Seventh Schedule (VII) of the Constitution of India of 1950.

[2] Anti-Corruption – for investigation of cases under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 against Public officials and the employees of Central Government, Public Sector Undertakings, Corporations or Bodies owned or controlled by the Government of India – it is the largest division having presence almost in all the States of India.

[3] Economic Offences Division – for investigation of major financial scams and serious economic frauds, including crimes relating to Fake Indian Currency Notes, Bank Frauds and Cyber Crime.

[4] Special Crimes Division – for investigation of serious, sensational and organized crime under the Indian Penal Code and other laws on the requests of State Governments or on the orders of the Supreme Court and High Courts. The laws under which CBI can investigate Crime are notified by the Central Government under section 3 of the DSPE Act.

[5] Section 5: Extension of powers and jurisdiction of special police establishment to other areas.

[6] Section 6. Consent of State Government to exercise of powers and jurisdiction.

[7] Central Bureau of Investigation through S.P., Jaipur v. State of Rajasthan and another, Criminal Appeal No. 42 of 2001.

[8] Section 2 of the DSPE Act, CBI can Suo-Motu take up investigation of offences notified in section 3 only in the Union Territories. Taking up investigation by CBI in the boundaries of a State requires prior consent of that State as per Section 6 of the DSPE Act. The Central Government can authorize CBI to investigate such a crime in a State but only with the consent of the concerned State Government. The Supreme Court and High Courts, however, can order CBI to investigate such a crime anywhere in the country without the consent of the State.

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[9] A. G. Noorani, Police and the Constitution, 41 Economic and Political Weekly 1163–1164 (2006), (last visited Sep 6, 2020).

[10] C. K. Zeenath v. State Police Director General of Police, Thiruvananthapuram and Others, Writ Petition (C). No. 17742 of 2014.

[11] Central Bureau of Investigation v. Dalip Singh Judeo and Others, CC No. 04 of 2009.

[12] Central Bureau of Investigation and Others. v. Mohd. Parvez Abdul Kayuum and Others, MANU/SC/0883/2019.; SHASTRI RAMACHANDARAN, Haren Pandya’s Murder: Questions without Answers, 46 Economic and Political Weekly 10–12 (2011), (last visited Sep 6, 2020).

[13] Arun Shourie, “These lethal, inexorable laws: Rajiv, his men and his regime”, South Asia Books, 1992.

[14] Dilip Karambelkar v. Rear Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat, AIR 1997 Bom 131.

[15] Santosh Kumar Singh v. State through Central Bureau of Investigation, (2010) SCC 9 (747).

[16] Dr. (Smt.) Nupur Talwar v. Central Bureau of Investigation and another, MANU/SC/0009/2012; Dr. Rajesh Talwar v. Central Bureau of Investigation and another, MANU/SC/0187/2012.

[17] Sephy and Others v. Central Bureau of Investigation, MANU/KE/5963/2019.

[18] Kumar v. Central Bureau of Investigation, Writ Petition (Criminal) 2367/2019; Kumar v. Central Bureau of Investigation Global Freedom of Expression, (last visited Sep 6, 2020).

[19] B. R. Lall, Who Owns CBI: The Naked Truth, Manas Publications, 2007.

Cite this article (The Bluebook 20th ed.)-

Preethi S., State Police versus Central Bureau of Investigation, Ex Gratia Law Journal, (October 12, 2020),

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Preethi S.
Student - Symbiosis Law School, Hyderabad