Important Facts about CBI: History & Role

 From SPE (Special Police Establishment) to CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation)

CBI is the premier investigating agency of India. It is headed by the director. The agency is known to investigate several economic, crimes and special crimes, and other high profile cases.

History of CBI 

The Central Bureau of Investigation traces its origin to the Special Police Establishment (SPE) that was set up in 1941 by the Government of India.

At the time of its establishment, SPE was required to investigate cases of Bribery and corruption in transactions with the War & Supply Department of India during World War II.

After the War, the government passed the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946 and provided for the constitution of a special force for investigation of offenses alleged to have been committed under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.

After the announcement of the Act, the administration of SPE was transferred to the Home Department and its objectives were spread to cover all departments of the Government of India.

The discretion of SPE was extended to all the Union Territories and also to the states with the consent of the concerned State Government.

The headquarters of SPE was established in Delhi and the agency was put under the Charge of Director, Intelligence Bureau. Later in 1948 a post of Inspector General of Police, SPE was created and the SPE was placed under his charge.

With the passage of time, many more responsibilities were given to the SPE like in 1953 an Enforcement Wing was added to deal with the offenses under the Import and Export Control Act.

By a resolution, the government changed the name of SPE to Central Bureau of Investigation in the 1960s.

Further, in 1964, an Economic offenses Wing was added under the CBI which dealt with cases of violation of fiscal laws.

Currently, the CBI comes under the control of the Department of Personnel and Training in the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances Pension and deals with the following divisions-

1. Anti- Corruption Division

2. Economic Offences Division     

3. Special Crimes Division

4. Directorate of Prosecution

5. Administration Division

6. Policy & Coordination Division

 7. Central Forensic Science Laboratory


CBI being the nodal police agency in India, it coordinates with Interpol. Also, it deals with investigations of those crimes which may have interstate and international ramifications.

In the Vineet Narain, Hawala Scandal case, Supreme Court of India observed that the CBI had failed in its responsibility and has become a caged parrot. The court laid down guidelines to ensure independence and autonomy of the CBI and thus ordered CBI to be placed under the supervision of the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) to ensure that it remains free from executive control or interference.

Thus, the Central Vigilance Commission Act, 2003 was passed by the government and Central Vigilance commission was constituted to exercise superintendence give directions and review functioning of CBI.

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