Joining other opposition-ruled states, the Kerala government on Wednesday decided to withdraw the general consent to the CBI to investigate cases without prior permission.
A decision in this regard was taken at the Cabinet meeting held on Wednesday.
This decision, a crucial political move, will not affect the cases that CBI is already looking into in Kerala. But for any future cases, CBI will require prior permission of the state government to investigate cases in the state. The LDF government is learnt to have taken this decision following an agreement within the LDF in the matter. Earlier, the CPI(M) state secretariat had also decided along these lines.
The governments of Maharashtra, West Bengal, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh recently withdrew the general consent to the CBI, alleging political motives in CBI investigations in those states.
The Kerala state government had given permission to CBI in 2017. “What has prompted the government to take the decision is the way the BJP government at the Centre is using the CBI to attack the state governments,'' said a source at the Kerala Chief Minister's Office. “The unusual hurry that CBI showed to investigate the allegations against LIFE Mission is totally politically motivated.”
On October 13, the Kerala High Court had stayed for two months the CBI probe into alleged irregularities, including violations of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, in LIFE Mission, a state housing project envisaging total housing for the homeless.
The proposal has been welcomed by the CPI, whose leader Kanam Rajendran said no one was against a probe by any Central agency, "but using them [Central agencies] as a tool for political gains and to create a smokescreen till the upcoming elections was not right".
The opposition parties, however, had opposed the government move to withdraw general consent to the CBI. The Congress and BJP had alleged it was to hide ''rampant corruption'' of the Left government. Union Minister V. Muraleedharan told reporters that the CBI probe into the corruption allegation in the LIFE Mission project had forced the Kerala government to take a stand against the agency. Congress state chief Mullappally Ramachandran said the state government was ''afraid'' of the CBI probe. "The Kerala government is afraid of the CBI. They should make it clear whether they have the same stance with regard to the CBI at the national level too," he told reporters.
State Law Minister A.K. Balan countered this allegation, stating that most Congress-ruled states had withdrawn consent for the CBI “Even Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi had made strong statements against the Union government using these agencies against opposition-ruled states,” he argued.
Unlike the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which has countrywide jurisdiction to take over any case related to terrorism, the CBI requires the consent of the state government concerned under Section 6 of the DPSE Act, the law that governs the agency's functioning.