On the day a high-powered panel led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to pick a new Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) chief, Justice AK Sikri recused himself from hearing the plea filed by an NGO challenging the appointment of M Nageshwar Rao as the interim CBI director.
The matter has been listed for tomorrow.
Justice Sikri’s recusal comes days after Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi recused himself citing that he was a part of the committee formed to select the next CBI director. The hearing in the case was then deferred to 24 January.
CJI Gogoi had also sought transparency in the process of shortlisting, selection and appointment of the CBI Director.
The matter was mentioned for urgent listing before a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi on 16 January. The bench also comprised Justice LN Rao and Justice SK Kaul.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioner, had urged the Bench to hear the plea on Friday, 18 January. Chief Justice Gogoi reportedly told Bhushan that it was “definitely not possible” to hear the matter on Friday and that the plea would be heard next week.
NGO Common Cause had challenged the Centre’s 10 January order appointing Rao as the interim CBI director.
The NGO’s petition has reportedly sought laying down of specific mechanisms to ensure transparency in the process of the CBI director’s appointment. It has pointed out that Rao’s appointment was not made on the basis of recommendations of the Selection Committee which also comprises CJI or an apex court judge nominated by him, and leader of the single largest Opposition party in the Lok Sabha.
The plea stated that the Centre’s 23 October 2018 order appointing Rao as the acting CBI director was quashed by the apex court on 8 January, but the government “acted in a completely mala fide, arbitrary and illegal manner” to appoint him again in “complete contravention” of the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act two day later.
The petition has sought a direction to the Centre to appoint a regular CBI director forthwith by following the procedure laid down in accordance with the provisions of the DSPE Act, as amended by the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013.
The plea has also sought a direction to the Centre to ensure that “all records of deliberations and rational criteria related to short-listing and selection of the director, CBI, be properly recorded and made available to citizens in consonance with the provisions of the RTI Act”.
Rao, CBI’s additional director, was given the charge of the agency’s interim chief on 10 January until the appointment of a new CBI director after the Selection Committee removed incumbent CBI director Alok Verma on alleged charges of corruption and dereliction of duty. Verma was removed three weeks before he was to demit office. A 1979-batch IPS officer, Verma was locked in a bitter tussle with the agency’s special director Rakesh Asthana, a 1984-batch IPS officer.
The panel that will be meeting later today will include CJI Ranjan Gogoi and Congress leader in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge.
According to The Week, there are 14 officers from IPS batches of 1982 to 1985 who are being considered for post of CBI director.
The names include Kerala DGP Loknath Behera, who has 10 years of experience in CBI; 1982 batch officers JK Sharma and Parminder Rai; Special Secretary (Internal Security), Home Ministry, Rina Mitra who is a 1983 batch officer; chief of National Institute of Criminology and Forensic Sciences Javeed Ahmed, a 1984 batch IPS officer of Uttar Pradesh cadre; DG, National Investigation Agency, YC Modi, a 1984-batch IPS officer; and the DGs of CISF and ITBP.