Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI): Function, Powers, Role of CBI

By Balaji

Updated on: March 14th, 2023

Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), functioning under the Department. of Personnel, Ministry of Personnel, Pension & Public Grievances, Government of India, is the supreme and eminent investigating police agency in India. CBI is an elite force that plays a significant role in preserving values in public life and ensuring the health of the national economy. The CBI is India’s nodal police agency, coordinating investigations on behalf of Interpol members.

The Central Bureau of Investigation [CBI] possesses the authority to investigate from the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, of 1946. The Supreme Court of India has also censured and condemned the CBI and called it ‘caged parrot speaking in its master’s voice’, due to the extensive political interference. CBI is an important organisation covered under the polity section of the IAS Syllabus. For the UPSC exam, it is important to cover the “CBI” topic comprehensively. Through the article, we will be covering all the major aspects of the CBI, including functions, powers, the CBI director, decisions, etc.

Table of content

  • 1. What is CBI? (more)
  • 2. Full Form of CBI (more)
  • 3. History of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) (more)
  • 4. Motto And Vision of CBI (more)
  • 5. Divisions Under Central Bureau Of Investigation (more)
  • 6. Cases Handled By CBI (more)
  • 7. The Vision of CBI (more)
  • 8. Organization Structure of CBI (more)
  • 9. List of CBI Directors of India (more)
  • 10. Functions of CBI (more)
  • 11. Powers of the Central Bureau of Investigation (more)
  • 12. Sources of Powers of CBI (more)
  • 13. Challenges Associated With CBI (more)
  • 14. CBI UPSC Notes (more)

What is CBI?

CBI stands for the Central Bureau of Investigation. It is an eminent investigative agency of India and is responsible for investigating a wide range of crimes such as corruption, economic offenses, major frauds, and high-profile cases. The agency was established in 1963 and employed under the administration of the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances, and Pensions.

The CBI derives the authority to investigate from the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act, 1946, and is headquartered in New Delhi, India. The Central Bureau of Investigation is involved in major criminal probes and is the Interpol agency in India. Furthermore, CBI investigates cases that are referred to it by state governments, courts, and the central government. It also has the power to take up cases on its own in certain circumstances.

Full Form of CBI

CBI stands for Central Bureau of Investigation. It is the supreme and most prestigious investigating police agency in India, which works under the Ministry of Personnel, Pension & Public Grievances, Government of India. The Ministry comes under the direct purview of the Prime Minister’s Office.

History of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)

A Special Police Establishment was formulated during World War II. The SPE was endowed with the responsibility of investigating the accusations of bribery and corruption in the war-pertinent acquisition. Later, the Special Police Establishment was formally instituted as an agency by the Government of India to pursue its investigation in the cases pertaining to the accusations of corruption in the numerous wings of the Government of India by implementing the Delhi Special Police Establishment [DSPE] Act.

In 1963, the SPE was renamed by the Government of India to CBI with an aspect to lead investigation procedures for heinous crimes. The Santhanam Committee on Corruption Prevention recommended the formation of the CBI. The CBI was then established by a Home Affairs Ministry resolution.

CBI now works under the Ministry of Personnel, Pension & Public Grievances, Government of India, and coordinates the investigation on behalf of the Interpol Member countries. For investigation of offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act, CBI vests superintendence to the Central Vigilance Commission.

Motto And Vision of CBI

The Motto of CBI is – Industry, Impartiality, Integrity. Central Bureau of Investigation works with the vision to safeguard and enshrine the Indian Constitution and the law of the land by pursuing thorough investigations and successfully summoning criminal cases; facilitating leadership and guidance to police forces and functioning as the nodal agency for enhancing inter-state and international law enforcement cooperation.

Divisions Under Central Bureau Of Investigation

The prime responsibility of the CBI relies on investigating and enshrining the values and morals of society. It is one of the most trusted organizations. The CBI has the following divisions:

  • Anti Corruption Division (Delhi Special Police Establishment)
  • Economic Offences Division
  • Special Crimes Division
  • Directorate of Prosecution
  • Administration Division
  • Policy & Coordination Division
  • Central Forensic Science Laboratory

The Investigation & Anti-Corruption Division (Delhi Special Police Establishment) was entrusted with the following mandate in the resolution although it continued to derive its jurisdiction and powers from DSPE Act, 1946.

  • Cases in which public servants under the control of the Central Government are involved either by themselves or along with State Government servants and/or other persons.
  • Cases in which the interests of the Central Government, or of any public sector project or undertaking, or any statutory corporation or body set up and financed by the Government of India are involved.
  • Cases relating to breaches of Central Laws with the enforcement of which the Government of India is particularly concerned, e.g.
    • Breaches of Import and Export Control Orders
    • Serious breaches of the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act,
    • Passport frauds
    • Cases under the Official Secrets Act pertaining to the affairs of the Central Government.
    • Cases of certain specified categories under the Defence of India Act or Rules with which the Central Government is particularly concerned
  • Serious cases of cheating or fraud relating to the Railways, or Posts & Telegraphs Department, particularly those involving professional criminals operating in several States.
    • Crime on the High Seas
    • Crime on the Airlines
  • Important and serious cases in Union Territories particularly those by professional criminals.
  • Serious cases of fraud, cheating, and embezzlement relating to Public Joint Stock Companies.
  • Other cases of a serious nature, when committed by organised gangs or professional criminals, or cases having ramifications in several States including Union Territories, serious cases of spurious drugs, important cases of kidnapping of children by professional inter-State gangs, etc. These cases will be taken up only at the request of or with the concurrence of the State Governments/Union Territories Administrations concerned.
  • Collection of intelligence about corruption in the public services and the projects and undertakings in the public sector.
  • Prosecution of cases investigated by this Division.
  • Presentation of cases before Enquiry Offices in which departmental proceedings are instituted on the recommendation of this Division.

Cases Handled By CBI

The cases that can be handled by the CBI are mentioned below. The Central Bureau of Investigation probes the cases and aids in securing and safeguarding the rights of the citizens.

  • Anti-Corruption Crimes: CBI can investigate the cases under the Presentation of Corruption Act against Public officials and central government employees, corporations owned or controlled by the Indian government, and public sector undertakings.
  • Special Crimes: CBI also investigates serious crimes under the Indian Penal Code and other laws at the requests of State governments or orders of high courts or supreme courts.
  • Economic Crimes: Central Bureau of Investigation investigates major economic frauds, and financial scamps including fake Indian currency, cyber crime, bank frauds, imports, and export. Smuggling of narcotics, smuggling of other contraband goods.
  • Suo Moto Cases: Central government can assign CBI to investigate a crime in a state but only with the permission of that state government. However, the supreme court has the power to order the CBI to investigate a crime anywhere without the consent of the state.

The Vision of CBI

The vision of CBI is to become the leading investigative agency and pursue excellence in the prosecution and criminal investigation field. It also aims to provide justice and uphold the rule of law.

  • The Central Bureau of Investigation aims to achieve its vision by upholding the highest standards of integrity and transparency in its work.
  • It curbs corruption in public life, violent crimes, and economic and violent crimes through investigation and prosecution.
  • Additionally, the CBI also places a strong emphasis on the use of technology and modern investigative techniques to improve its investigations.

Organization Structure of CBI

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has a hierarchical organizational structure that is headed by a director, who is responsible for the overall management and functioning of the agency. The Director of the CBI is selected based on the CVC Act of 2003 for a term that lasts for two years. The CBI is subject to five different ministries that are part of the Indian Government:

  • Ministry of Home Affairs: For Cadre clearance
  • Law and Justice Ministry: For Public prosecutors
  • Central Vigilance Commission: For cases related to Anti-corruption
  • DoPT: For the purpose of administration, induction, and budget of non-IPS officers
  • UPSC: For the selection of Officers above the rank of Deputy SP

Overall, the organizational structure of the CBI is designed to ensure effective management and coordination of the agency’s activities and the efficient investigation of crimes. When making recommendations, the committee considers the views of the outgoing director. The final selection is made by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet from the panel recommended by the selection committee.

List of CBI Directors of India

The CBI Directors who were entrusted with enshrining the morales and ethics of the society and safeguarding the fundamental rights of the citizens have been listed here. Below we have mentioned the CBI Directors of India throughout the years.

CBI Directors Tenure
R. K. Raghavan 4 January 1999 – 1 April 2001
P. C. Sharma 1 April 2001 – 6 December 2003
U. S. Misra 6 December 2003 – 6 December 2005
Vijay Shanker Tiwari 12 December 2005 – 31 July 2008
Ashwani Kumar 2 August 2008 – 30 November 2010
A. P. Singh 30 November 2010 – 30 November 2012
Ranjit Sinha 3 December 2012 – 2 December 2014
Anil Sinha 3 December 2014 – 2 December 2016
Rakesh Asthana (Special Director) 3 December 2016 – 31 January 2017
Raaz P 1 February 2017 – 10 January 2019
M. Nageshwar Rao (interim) 24 October 2018 – 1 February 2019
Rishi Kumar Shukla 2 February 2019 – Present (in-charge)

Functions of CBI

Being India’s premier investigative agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation serves as India’s point of contact with INTERPOL. It is responsible for investigating a wide range of crimes and cases. Here are some of the main functions of the CBI:

  • The primary function of the CBI is to investigate serious and complex crimes such as corruption, economic offenses, major frauds, and high-profile cases.
  • The CBI collaborates with law enforcement agencies in other countries to investigate crimes that have transnational implications.
  • The CBI is responsible for presenting its findings in court and for ensuring that the guilty are brought to justice and put behind bars.
  • The CBI also plays a role in the prevention of crime by providing training and technical assistance to other law enforcement agencies.
  • Lastly, the Central Bureau of Investigation provides security cover to certain high-profile individuals, such as the Prime Minister and the President of India.

Powers of the Central Bureau of Investigation

The legal powers of the investigation are endowed to the CBI which facilitates powers, duties, privileges, and liabilities on the Delhi Special Police Establishment and the other officers of numerous Union Territories.

The Central Government possesses the authority to extend the powers of the CBI to any area [except the Union Territories] subject to the consent of the States. The Central Bureau of Investigation can only pursue the investigation after the Central Government has sent the notification for the same. The High Court and the Supreme Courts are endowed with the authority to order CBI probe in any serious crime that has been committed in the State.

Sources of Powers of CBI

The CBI is the Government of India’s primary investigative agency. It is not a statutory body; its powers are granted by the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act of 1946.

  • Its critical role is to prevent corruption and maintain administrative integrity.
  • In matters pertaining to the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, it works under the supervision of the CVC (Central Vigilance Commission).
  • However, under Section 5(1) of the Act, the Central Government can extend its jurisdiction to other areas, including railway areas and states, if the State Government consents under Section 6 of the Act.
  • Because many of its investigators come from the Indian Police Service, the agency relies on the home ministry for staffing.
  • The CBI also relies on the Ministry of Law for lawyers and lacks some functional autonomy.

Challenges Associated With CBI

Certain challenges are faced by the Central Bureau of Investigation. Corruption, politically biased demeanour, and consent of state are some of the major challenges that are faced by CBI in their path of investigating the truth. Here are concerns associated with CBI:

  • Police Agency: Since the police is a State subject under the Constitution, and the CBI follows the procedures outlined in the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), it is classified as a police agency.
  • Manipulation by Government: The CBI is also vulnerable to the government’s ability to manipulate senior officers because they rely on the Central government for future postings.
  • Consent of State: The CBI needs the permission of the State administration in issue before it can pursue the investigation into any of the committed crimes in the State. As a result, certain situations may go uninvestigated, resulting in a quiet standoff.
  • CBI and RTI: CBI is listed under the Second Schedule of Right to Information Act. Section 24 specifies that the statute “does not apply to certain organizations.” However, the CBI made the point that they are investigating all types of cases, including ones of strategic importance to India, and that if they were submitted to RTI, much of that material would be released into the public realm.
  • Corruption and Politically Biased: The politicization of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has been ongoing for several years. This was emphasized in Supreme Court criticism for being a caged parrot speaking in the voice of its master.
  • CBI Autonomy: The Supreme Court questioned the issue of the bureau’s independence in the infamous Coalgate corruption case, saying that “the CBI has become the state’s parrot.” Only screams, echoing the master’s voice” The Supreme Court then directed the Centre to make the CBI impartial and to guarantee that it operates free of any extraneous pressures.


The Central Bureau of Investigation is an entrusted organization for safeguarding the rights of the citizens and leading the investigation procedures for finding the truth. CBI has conferred its powers, from the DSPE Act 1946.


CBI finds its relevance under GS Paper 2 of the UPSC Mains as well as in the Prelims. It is important for the aspirants to be aware of all the facts and information related to CBI. Candidates need to take the help of books and glance through the previous year’s question paper for a better understanding of the topic as per the UPSC Syllabus.

Questions on Central Bureau of Investigation

The candidates must practice the previous year papers to get in touch with the types of questions asked from the topic “CBI”. The acquaintance with the pattern of questions will enlighten them to follow the trend and be able to solve the questions within the prescribed time limit. The questions can be expected in the prelims and mains exam of UPSC.

Question: The Central Bureau of Investigation was set up by:

  1. An Act of the Parliament
  2. An Amendment to the Constitution
  3. A Resolution of the Home Ministry
  4. A Resolution of the Personnel Ministry

Answer: Option C

Question: Consider the following statements:

  1. The Director of Central Bureau of Investigation as Inspector-General of Police, Delhi Special Police Establishment, is responsible for the administration of the organisation.
  2. With the enactment of CVC Act, 2003, the superintendence of Delhi Special Police Establishment vests with the Central Government save investigations of offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, in which, the superintendence vests with the Central Vigilance Commission

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

  1. Only 1
  2. Only 2
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

Answer: Option C

UPSC Notes
Central Administrative Tribunal Central Information Commission [CIC]
Difference Between Commissioner of Police and Director General of Police Press Information Bureau
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