New Delhi, Dec. 9: The Supreme Court today sought the Centre's response on a petition filed by an NGO demanding the quashing of the appointment of Gujarat-cadre IPS officer Rakesh Asthana as the acting CBI chief instead of selecting a full-time director.
A bench headed by Justice Kurian Joseph asked the Centre to respond within four weeks. The petition, filed by the NGO Common Cause through counsel Pranav Sachdeva, alleges that the appointment had been made in violation of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013.
The act mandates that the CBI director shall be appointed by the central government on the recommendations of a committee comprising the Prime Minister, the leader of Opposition and the Chief Justice of India or any Supreme Court judge nominated by the CJI. The act was amended in November 2014 to include the leader of the single largest Opposition party in the committee when there is no recognised leader of Opposition, as is the case now.
According to the petition, when outgoing CBI director Anil Sinha's term ended on December 2, it was incumbent on the Centre to call a meeting of the selection committee to appoint his successor, but the government selected Asthana with "mala fide" intention.
"This meeting ought to have been called well in advance so as to ensure a smooth transition. However, the government took a series of steps in a completely mala fide, arbitrary and illegal manner to ensure that Mr Rakesh Asthana was given the charge of CBI director," the petition alleged.
The petition pointed out that Asthana had earlier held several important posts in Gujarat police, including those of commissioner, Surat City; commissioner, Vadodara City; joint commissioner, Ahmedabad City; and inspector-general, Vadodara Range.
It also mentioned that Asthana was part of a special investigation team set up by the Gujarat government to probe the Godhra train-burning.
"The central 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 Mr Anil Sinha was going to demit the office of CBI director".
According to the NGO, the Centre had earlier curtailed the tenure of R.K. Dutta, special director of the CBI, and transferred him to the Union home ministry.
"This was done on 30.11.2016, i.e. just two days before the incumbent CBI director was slated to demit office. A post of special secretary was specially created in the ministry to accommodate Mr Dutta by upgrading the post of a joint secretary, which is two levels below the special secretary, since the government clearly wanted him out of the CBI," the petition alleged.