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CIMA Gallary

Slander sullies race for CBI top job

New Delhi, Nov. 10: The race for the post of CBI director has hotted up, marked by lobbying and mudslinging that even prompted a shortlisted candidate to approach the home minister’s office on Thursday.

Indo-Tibetan Border Police force director-general Ranjit Sinha, National Investigation Agency (NIA) chief S.C. Sinha, a 1975-batch officer of the Haryana cadre, and Atul Kumar, a Union territory-cadre officer of the 1976 batch, have been shortlisted to succeed A.P. Singh.

Under Singh, who retires on November 30, the CBI has been probing several high-profile cases — such as the 2G spectrum and the Commonwealth Games scams — and the stakes are high in the race for the director’s job.

But the alleged mudslinging appears to have affected at least one officer.

“All sorts of slander are being resorted to,” said an officer, referring to Ranjit Sinha’s complaints to home minister Sushil Shinde about alleged rumours doing the rounds.

According to the officer, who was privy to what transpired between Ranjit Sinha and Shinde on Thursday, the ITBP chief complained that he was being portrayed as “pliant” and someone with “political connections”.

Shinde is understood to have told Sinha that the ministry was aware of such slander, some of them apparently spread by those who could not make it to the shortlist.

The ITBP boss also met home secretary R.K. Singh, sources said.

The new CBI director will take over at a time the government is under public glare over allegations of corruption. Some NGOs have been demanding that the agency be freed from government control.

Sources said some politicians were believed to have lobbied for at least two officers on a list of five potential candidates.

The final decision will be taken by the Prime Minister’s Office. The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC), chaired by the Prime Minister, decides on the appointment, selecting one of the three names short-listed by the central vigilance commissioner.

“The ACC is only a formality, the Prime Minister is the final decision-maker,” said a former IB official.

Prakash Singh, a former BSF chief who has been advocating police reforms, said the “process of selection is fine but has been subverted”.

The CBI, Singh added, should be seen as being as independent as the judiciary.

The administration of the CBI comes under the department of personnel and training, while the home ministry decides postings of officers. So, although technically the CBI is an autonomous body answerable to the vigilance commissioner, its control remains with the government.By a coincidence, some of the top bureaucrats who would have a role in the appointment of the CBI director are all Stephanians.

The principal secretary to the Prime Minister, Pulok Chatterjee, cabinet secretary Ajit Kumar Seth and outgoing CBI director A.P. Singh are all former students of St Stephen’s College.