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Cop-ouster glare on CBI brass

New Delhi, Oct. 26: The shunting out of P.C. Pande ' Ahmedabad's top cop during the Gujarat riots ' from the CBI has raised questions on the efficacy of the system to appoint senior police officers in the agency.

Although rights activists are delighted, CBI officials said the ouster ' like Pande's appointment some eight months ago ' suggested that the selection system put in place by the Supreme Court was neither immune to political pressure nor working as well as expected.

In the Vineet Narain judgment of the Jain hawala case, the apex court had ordered that a committee be set up to pick police officers for senior positions in the CBI in consultation with the agency director. The central vigilance commissioner would head the panel that would have secretaries from the home and personnel ministries as members.

Such a mechanism would insulate CBI officers from outside pressures, it was believed. But agency officials said if it was so, Pande would not have been first appointed and then thrown out by the same panel after a new government took charge at the Centre.

'If he was considered an asset to the CBI eight months ago, what made him a liability now' a CBI officer asked. The CBI had got its first Gujarat riot case ' cited as the reason for moving him to the Indo-Tibetan Border Police ' well before Pande's appointment came through early this year.

There is acknowledgement within the CBI that its top brass did not stand up to political pressure. Sources said the NDA government pushed the CBI into roping in Pande as additional director as the Modi regime found it difficult to give him a good posting after his questionable role during the Gujarat riots. The CBI put its foot down twice ' the last time in October 2003 ' but then buckled to intense pressure from the .K. Advani-led home ministry. Pande took charge in March when it was widely expected that the NDA would return to power.

The hint that Pande would be pushed out came a few months ago when his name was suggested as a director-general of police at the Centre but did not figure in the list for CBI special director. It was thought he would be promoted to the non-sensitive post of director-general of civil defence.

However, the United Progressive Alliance government decided to use the opportunity to signal that Pande should not have been posted to the CBI in the first place.

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