CJI recuses from hearing plea challenging appointment of M N Rao as interim CBI chief

NEW DELHI, Jan 21: Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi Monday recused himself from hearing a plea challenging the government’s January 10 order appointing M Nageswara Rao as interim CBI director, saying he would be taking part in the meeting to select the CBI director on January 24.
The high-powered Selection Committee, comprising Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the CJI and the Leader of Congress in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, is likely to meet on January 24 to appoint new CBI Director.
The post of CBI Director is lying vacant ever since the government removed Alok Verma and appointed Additional Director Rao as interim chief till the appointment of a new director.
“I am participating in the selection committee meeting and so I will not be hearing this,” said the CJI.
The bench, also comprising Justice Sanjiv Khanna, then said that the PIL filed by NGO ‘Common Cause’ would be heard by some other appropriate bench.
Rao was made the interim CBI director after the Selection Committee removed Verma as chief of the probe agency on charges of corruption and dereliction of duty.
The NGO, in its petition filed through lawyer Prashant Bhushan, has sought laying down of specific mechanisms to ensure transparency in the process of appointment of CBI director.
It has alleged that Rao’s appointment was not made on the basis of recommendations of the committee.
The plea stated that the October 23, 2018 order appointing Rao as the interim CBI director was quashed by the top court on January 8, but the government has “acted in a completely mala fide, arbitrary and illegal manner” to appoint him again in “complete contravention” of the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act.
The plea has also sought a direction to the Centre to appoint a regular CBI director forthwith by following the procedure laid down in accordance with the provisions of the DSPE Act, as amended by the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013.
Besides, it 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”.
The plea said the government should ensure transparency in short-listing, election and appointment process of CBI director by publicly disclosing, including through the web-site, the procedure and rational criteria for short-listing candidates, if it is done.
It has sought a direction to the Centre that the process of selecting the 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.
The plea has claimed that lack of transparency in appointment of the 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”.
The apex court had on January 8 allowed Verma to return as the CBI director, albeit with his wings clipped, by setting aside the Centre and the CVC’s orders divesting him of his powers and sending him on leave.
However, the top court had said it was “still open” for the high-powered committee, which selects the CBI chief, to consider the matter within a week since the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) was probing the charges of corruption against Verma. (PTI)