Arun Jaitley, India’s finance minister, gestures as he speaks during a panel discussion at the Bloomberg India Economic Forum in Mumbai. (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

Investigative Agencies Should Maintain Professionalism, Says Arun Jaitley

Weeks after public bickering between the two top Central Bureau of Investigation officials, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday laid out cardinal principles for investigative agencies. These range from maintaining the utmost level of professionalism to remaining faceless and resisting the temptation of rushing to media when a probe starts.

He said the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, should maintain highest integrity and professional standards and endeavour to become a "near-perfect organisation”. The DRI is the apex intelligence and investigative agency for matters relating to violation of the Customs Act and smuggling.

"If I look at the cross section of various investigative agencies, including the police which is the basic investigative agency with largest network in the country, it goes to the credit of DRI that by and large it has remained free from any collateral controversies," he said.

DRI has concentrated in its core aspect of competence and developing expertise in area where it is primarily supposed to check the economic harm being done to the country and national security, he said.

Speaking at the 61st foundation day of DRI, the minister laid out "few cardinal principles" which every investigative agency should follow “to achieve the utmost level of perfection”.

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These principles include the need for investigative agencies to maintain utmost level of professionalism and be guided by one sole purpose, which is the detection of crime. The investigating officers, Jaitley said, have to make sure that no innocent is harmed or harassed, but at the same time they have to ensure that no one guilty gets away.

They have to resist the temptation of making a lot of song and dance when the initial investigation starts and then rushing to the media. They must, as professionals, concentrate on strengthening the investigative processes and evidence.
Arun Jaitley, Finance Minister

Stating that the real test of an investigative agency is whether the investigations ultimately result in penalties or convictions, Jaitley said the investigative officers have to be faceless.

"The lesser it is in media controversy or news, the better it is for them. No news is good news as far as investigative agencies are concerned. Therefore, tom-toming successes (of initial probe) and then the cases not being established do not add to the stature of the investigative agencies," the minister said.

He said the officer and his supervisor who takes up a case for investigation must have a "sixth sense and a very high sense of professionalism" to make sure at the initial level whether the case deserves to be investigated and whether it would result in penalties and conviction.

He said credibility of an institution depends on integrity and ethical standards as well as degree of professionalism.

"DRI has to endeavour to become a near-perfect organisation. I use the word near because 'to err is human' and we have to account for some margin of human error. But in order to ensure that we achieve that utmost level of perfection which every investigative agency has to, there are few cardinal principles we have to remember," he said.

The infighting between CBI Director Alok Verma and Special Director Rakesh Asthana, the second-in-command at the CBI, has reached the Supreme Court, which is currently looking into the matter.