Three top institutions of the country faced crisis this year over the alleged efforts by the government of the day to control them. For the first time in the history of Supreme Court, four of its senior-most judges held a press conference to say “all is not well” in the apex court; country’s premier investigative agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) witnessed a feud between its top officers that led to some midnight orders by the government; and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) was rocked by an abrupt resignation of governor Urjit Patel.
In 2018, the Supreme Court passed historic judgments on several matters including women’s entry to Sabarimala shrine, Section 377, Aadhaar and Adultery among others. But the defining moment of the apex court was a press conference on January 12 by Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph where they launched a sharp attack against the then Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra for “ignoring the concerns voiced by them”. The four top judges questioned Misra over the manner in which the cases were assigned in the roster.
In October, CBI was exposed to ridicule after the fight between its top two officers – director Alok Verma and special director Rakesh Asthana – became public with both leveling serious accusations of corruption against each other. Verma and his deputy were sent on leave by the Centre and later Verma was divested of all his administrative duties and power unexpectedly through a midnight order.
Also read: 2018 – Year of lynchings
Before the end of the year, RBI governor Urjit Patel announced his resignation abruptly before his tenure came to an end. Patel took over from Raghuram Rajan in 2016, just two months before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s colossal demonetisation move. For weeks preceding Patel’s exit, the government and the central bank have been fighting over how much autonomy the RBI should have as the Modi government seeks to reduce curbs on lending and to gain access to the bank’s surplus reserves. Former governor Raghuram Rajan said, “We should go into the details on why there was an impasse which forced him to take this ultimate decision.” “I think this is something all Indians should be concerned about because strength of our institution is really important both for growth and sustainable growth in equity and the economy,” he added. Others also said the abrupt resignation of RBI governor does not augur well for India’s economy. Not only do these decisions affect the stability of the economy, but they also send wrong signals about India abroad. Can one expect foreign direct investments to flow in when heads of the central bank — the spine of the economy — feel compelled to give up their post?
Let’s wish in 2019, country’s institutions remain robustly autonomous.