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Supreme Court admits plea challenging M Nageswara Rao's appointment as CBI chief; posts matter for next week

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a plea challenging the appointment of M Nageshwar Rao as interim director of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). A public interest litigation, seeking quashing of Rao's appointment order issued on 10 January, was filed in the apex court on Monday.

Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi Wednesday admitted the plea and posted the matter for next week.

Rao, who is currently the agency's additional director, was given the charge of CBI interim chief on 10 January till the appointment of a new director. A high-powered committee headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi removed Alok Kumar Verma on the same day as the CBI director on charges of corruption and dereliction of duty.

The petition challenging Rao's appointment, filed by NGO Common Cause and RTI activist Anjali Bhardwaj, has sought laying down of specific mechanisms to ensure transparency in the process of appointment of CBI director.

 Supreme Court admits plea challenging M Nageswara Raos appointment as CBI chief; posts matter for next week

File image of CBI interim chief M Nageswara Rao. Twitter

The petition alleged that Rao's appointment was not made on the basis of recommendations of the high-powered selection committee, comprising the prime minister, the leader of the single largest Opposition party and the Chief Justice of India or a judge of the apex court nominated by him.

"In fact, it appears that the committee was completely bypassed and had no role in the appointment of Rao, thereby rendering the appointment illegal as it is in violation of the procedure for appointment of Director, CBI laid down in the DSPE (Delhi Special Police Establishment) Act," the plea, filed through advocate Prashant Bhushan, said.

It stated that the order of 23 October last year appointing Rao as the interim CBI director was quashed by the top court on 8 January but the government has "acted in a completely mala fide, arbitrary and illegal manner" to appoint him again in "complete contravention" of the DSPE Act.

The plea also sought a direction to the Centre to appoint a regular CBI director forthwith by following the procedure laid down in accordance with the provision of DSPE Act, as amended by the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013.

Besides this, the petition has sought a direction to the government 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".

It said the government should ensure transparency in short-listing, election and appointment process of CBI director by publicly disclosing, including through the website, the procedure and rational criteria for short-listing candidates, if any short-listing is done.

The plea sought a direction to the Centre that the process of selecting CBI director, including composition, mandate and minutes of the meetings of the search committee, should be disclosed publicly along with names of short-listed candidates so that people can inform the panel of any significant adverse information they may have about any such candidate.

It said that the minutes of the meetings of the selection committee should be publicly disclosed and recording of facts to indicate how the selected candidates are best suited for the post, disclosure of this information according to the provisions of the RTI Act after the appointment has been made should be there.

"In so far as the appointment of the Director, CBI is concerned, the Government of India has failed to adopt proper procedures to ensure transparency in the short-listing, selection and appointment," the plea said.

It claimed that lack of transparency in appointment of CBI director prevents any public scrutiny of the process and allows the "government to exercise undue influence" in the appointment process especially at the stage of short-listing of candidates.

Detailing the sequence of events relating to the appointment of Rao as the interim CBI director, the plea alleged that the entire process was "mala fide" as the government wanted to "appoint its own choice as CBI Director in the interim".

It said that independence and insulation of the CBI from government influence was key to ensuring its proper functioning.

"The Government of India has attempted to stifle the independence of the institution of the CBI by appointing the Director of the CBI in an arbitrary and illegal manner," the plea claimed.

With inputs from PTI

 

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Updated Date: Jan 16, 2019 11:29:33 IST