CJI cites 'rule of law'; Centre's CBI chief picks dropped
Two of the Centre's top picks for the post of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Director were reportedly dropped as Chief Justice of India (CJI) NV Ramana cited a rule of law pertaining to their retirement. Setting a new precedent, Ramana cited a Supreme Court judgment which said officers with under six months in service before retirement shall not be appointed as police chiefs.
According to reports, YC Modi of Assam-Meghalaya cadre and Rakesh Asthana of the Gujarat cadre have now been eliminated as choices for the post of CBI Director. Both officers—trusted by the Narendra Modi government—were considered frontrunners. Modi is currently the National Investigation Agency (NIA) chief and retires on May 31. Asthana is the Border Security Force (BSF) chief and retires on August 31.
On Monday, a three-member high-level selection committee led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi considered the top choices for the position of CBI Director. The panel also included CJI Ramana and Opposition leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury. During the meeting, the CJI reportedly argued the SC guideline for candidates to have more than six months left in service before retirement, citing the 2019 Prakash Singh case.
Sources in the IPS circle informed The Indian Express that the CJI has set a new precedent as these guidelines were previously referred for the post of DGPs of state police. "CBI appointments are more guided by the Vineet Narain judgment, the CVC Act, and the Lokpal Act," they said, adding that this requirement may spill over to appointments in the IB and R&AW.
Reportedly, of the 109 officers who were to be considered by the committee for the CBI Director post, only three centrally empanelled officers had more than six months to retirement. The panel's three choices now include CISF chief Subodh Jaiswal, SSB DG KR Chandra, and Special Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) VSK Kaumudi. Jaiswal is reportedly the frontrunner among them.
Jaiswal, the senior-most among the three, is due to retire in September 2022. Kaumudi, who has prior experience working with the CBI, is set to retire on November 30, 2022, and hence has the maximum time left in service. Chandra is scheduled to retire this December. Jaiswal has worked closely with the Centre as part of the R&AW (Research and Analysis Wing).