New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to hear a plea challenging the appointment of Gujarat cadre IPS officer Rakesh Asthana as the interim director of the CBI. The plea will be heard on December 9.
“Okay. It will come up on Friday,” a bench comprising Chief Justice T.S. Thakur and Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and L. Nageswara Rao said after advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for NGO Common Cause, mentioned the plea.
The petition, filed by the NGO, alleged that the Centre took a series of steps in a “completely mala fide, arbitrary and illegal manner to ensure that Asthana was given the charge of CBI director”.
It has claimed that the government did not convene a meeting of the selection committee comprising the prime minister, the leader of the largest opposition party and the Chief Justice of India, even though it was fully aware that Anil Sinha was going to demit the office of CBI director on December 2.
Asthana, an IPS officer of the 1984 batch, was elevated to the position of additional director of the agency on December 2 when CBI special director R.K. Dutta, who was reportedly among the frontrunners for the top post, was shifted to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) as a special secretary.
The PIL claimed that the government had “prematurely curtailed” the tenure and transferred Dutta to MHA on November 30 – just two days before Sinha was slated to leave office.
Several eyebrows have been raised by Dutta’s transfer, Financial Chronicle reported. Dutta was handling sensitive cases like the 2G scam and Coalgate. A Supreme Court order had previously stated that officers handling sensitive cases should not be transferred, but the government has claimed that Dutta’s role was ‘supervisory’ and therefore would not impact the investigation.
Asthana headed the SIT that looked into the Godhra train burning. He would not have made it to the list of possible appointees for the selection committee, given his junior position.
Meanwhile, leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge has written to the prime minister on the issue, NDTV reported. Kharge has alleged that a meeting of the selection committee was deliberately not called, so as to “facilitate giving the charge to a junior officer”. The government has said it will respond to the letter by this evening, explaining the situation.
This is first time in ten years and only the second time in history that the CBI does not have a regular chief.
(With PTI inputs)