SC to hear plea challenging CBI Interim Director's appointment

08 Dec 2016 | Written by Ramya Patelkhana; Edited by Vaneet Randhawa

The Supreme Court agreed to hear on 9 Dec'16 a plea challenging Gujarat cadre IPS officer Rakesh Asthana's appointment as CBI Interim Director.

The petition alleged the Centre's decision was "completely mala fide, arbitrary and illegal manner to ensure that Asthana was given the charge of CBI director."

Advocate Prashant Bhushan filed the petition for an NGO called Common Cause.

In context: Interim CBI chief - Rakesh Asthana

02 Dec 2016IPS Officer Rakesh Asthana appointed as CBI Interim Chief

Following the superannuation of CBI Director Anil Kumar Sinha, the Centre handed over the additional charge of the post to a 1984-batch Gujarat cadre IPS Officer Rakesh Asthana, considered close to PM Narendra Modi and Amit Shah.

Asthana became the Additional Director of the agency when CBI Special Director RK Dutta, a front-runner for the post, was transferred to the Home Affairs Ministry.

Asthana's appointment becomes a major controversy

Rakesh Asthana's appointment as Interim CBI Chief became a controversy. Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge wrote to PM Modi to complain "the entire process has been vitiated and is being manipulated to preempt the decision to be arrived at in the meeting of the selection committee."
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The selection committee was deliberately not called to: Mallikarjun Kharge

AllegationThe selection committee was deliberately not called to: Mallikarjun Kharge

Mallikarjun Kharge alleged a meeting of the committee that selects the CBI chief - comprising the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice of India, and leader of the largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha (Kharge in this case) - wasn't deliberately called to "facilitate giving the charge to a junior officer."

The government stated it would respond and explain why the committee didn't meet.

Too Junior?Asthana too junior to be a part of possible candidates

Rakesh Asthana, the Centre's top choice for the acting CBI chief, is reportedly too junior even to make it to the panel of possible candidates to replace the CBI Director Anil Sinha.

Asthana's appointment allegedly circumvented the need to call a selection committee meeting and also built an opportunity to make Asthana the CBI Chief next year, when he would be senior enough.

Dutta's transferThe sudden transfer of RK Dutta

In his letter to PM Modi, Kharge also referred to the sudden transfer of the senior most officer in line to become the CBI chief, RK Dutta, only three days before Sinha's retirement.

Dutta had been in charge of two high-profile corruption cases, the 2G case, and the coal allocation case.

According to the Supreme Court, officers linked to two cases shouldn't be removed.

Dutta wasn't an investigating officer, argues government

While bureaucrats expressed surprise at Dutta's transfer, the government argued Dutta wasn't an investigation officer but had a supervisory role, so his removal wouldn't impact the cases. The controversy reached the Supreme Court via a petition challenging Asthana's appointment filed by lawyer/activist Prashant Bhushan.
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08 Dec 2016SC to hear plea challenging CBI Interim Director's appointment

10 Dec 2016SC seeks explanation behind the appointment of CBI director

The apex court asked the reason why the government had appointed Gujarat-cadre officer Rakesh Asthana as CBI director after cutting short the tenure of a more senior officer.

The SC said under Section 4-C of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, the tenure of a senior CBI official can only be shortened once approval of a committee is sought which wasn't done here.