India

Top court expresses displeasure at non-appointment of regular CBI Director

FILE PHOTO FOR REPRESENTATION.

The Supreme Court of India Friday expressed displeasure on non-appointment of a regular Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Director and said it was “averse” to the appointment of an interim chief for the agency for a long period.

The bench comprising justices Arun Mishra and Naveen Sinha said the post of CBI director was sensitive and the government should have appointed a regular director by now.

Attorney General of India K K Venugopal said the court that a high-powered committee, headed by the Prime Minister of India, would hold a meeting today to select a new CBI director.

He added that the government of India had taken the approval of the high-powered committee before appointing IPS officer M Nageswara Rao as the interim CBI director.

The court has fixed the matter for the next hearing on February 6. The bench was hearing a petition of NGO Common Cause challenging the appointment of Rao as interim CBI Director.

In the hearing, the bench said the process of appointing a CBI director should have been over by now as it was known that the earlier CBI chief was going to retire in January. The court also told the attorney general that the new CBI director who would be appointed must “trace the movements of files” during the period when former CBI chief Alok Kumar Verma was reinstated to the post for two days.

The Attorney General provided a sealed cover in which the minutes of the meeting of the committee held earlier. The last meeting of the committee was held in January 24, remaining ‘inconclusive’.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, who appeared on behalf of the petitioner NGO, stated that the court must look into the issue of transparency while appointing the new Director.

“You want an immediate appointment. Let us stop there. Let the appointment be made first. If you have any grievance that the process is not followed and transparency was not there then you can challenge it later,” the bench told Bhushan.

A fresh bench had been set up on Thursday after Justice N V Ramana had recused himself from hearing it, stating that he belonged to Andhra Pradesh just like Rao and had attended Rao’s daughter’s wedding who is married to an advocate known to him.

Before him, Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and the second senior-most judge in the top court Justice A K Sikri had recused themselves from the hearing.

The petitioner NGO had, in the court, asked for specific steps to ensure transparency in the appointment. It has alleged that Rao’s appointment was not made on the basis of the recommendations of the Selection Committee.

In the plea, the NGO alleged that the October 23 last year order of the government appointing Rao as interim CBI director was quashed by the top court on January 8 but the GoI “acted in a completely mala fide, arbitrary and illegal manner” to appoint him again in “complete contravention” of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act.

It has sought a direction to the GoI to appoint a regular CBI director forthwith. The plea has also sought immediate direction to the government to ensure that “all records” of deliberations and rational criteria related to short-listing and selection of the CBI director be properly recorded and made available to citizens in consonance with the provisions of the RTI Act.

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