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A Modi with a Modi link is in the race to be CBI chief

NIA director a favourite for top post
YC Modi
YC Modi

Imran Ahmed Siddiqui   |   New Delhi   |   Published 12.10.18, 09:30 PM

National Investigation Agency director-general Y.C. Modi, known to be close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah, is among the front-runners for the post of the next CBI director, government sources have said.

“The hunt for the new director has begun as the incumbent, Alok Verma, is retiring in January next year. Y.C. Modi is way ahead of the other contenders for the top post considering his proximity to Prime Minister Modi and Shah,” a senior government official claimed.


Y.C. Modi, a 1984-batch Assam-and-Meghalaya-cadre IPS officer, was part of the Supreme Court-appointed special investigation team that probed the 2002 Gujarat riots when Narendra Modi was chief minister. The SIT had given Narendra Modi a clean chit in the Gulbarg Society massacre in which 69 people were killed.

Verma’s tenure had been embroiled in controversy because of an internal war between him and his deputy Rakesh Asthana, a 1984-bach Gujarat-cadre IPS officer.

The CBI had said in a statement in September that it was probing special director Asthana in six cases of alleged corruption and that he was maligning Verma by sending frivolous complaints to the Central Vigilance Commission against him.

Sources said Asthana had been working as the interface between the CBI and the Prime Minister’s Office because of his perceived proximity to the political leadership and this angered Verma, sparking the turf war.

Government sources said Y.C. Modi was among the 20 Gujarat IAS and IPS officers who had either worked closely with Narendra Modi when he was chief minister or were involved in key probes during that time and had been brought to Delhi on central deputation since May 2014 when the BJP formed the government at the Centre.

Y.C. Modi was first appointed as an additional director in the CBI in July 2015 and served in the agency for over two years before taking charge of the NIA.

His detractors in the NIA call him a “soft-spoken person” but agree that his proximity to Narendra Modi had benefited him professionally. “He is said to be the favourite for the top (CBI) post because of his proximity to both the Prime Minister and the BJP president,” an NIA official said.

Y.C. Modi was appointed NIA chief in September last year amidst allegations from civil rights groups that the federal agency was under pressure to dilute cases involving so-called “saffron terrorists”.

The public prosecutor in the 2008 Malegaon blast case, Rohini Salian, had quit in the middle of 2015 alleging persuasion by senior officials in the agency to “go soft” on the accused.

Sources said the process to select a new CBI director had started and the department of personnel and training (DoPT) had sought the names of eligible IPS officers from the Rajnath Singh-headed Union home ministry.

The stakes are high in the race and lobbying is said to have started. Besides Y.C. Modi, CISF chief Rajesh Ranjan, Bharat Scouts and Guides director-general Rajnikant Mishra, Delhi police commissioner Amulya Patnaik and Uttar Pradesh director-general of police O.P. Singh are said to be in the fray.

“But political considerations are very important in the appointment of the director of the country’s premier investigating agency. The Prime Minister remains the final authority to select the best candidate for the job,” said a senior IPS officer.

Candidates for CBI director are shortlisted by the DoPT, which has administrative control over the agency and reports to the PMO.

The names are then sent to the CVC for clearance. Once approved, the suggestions are placed before a collegium having as members the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice of India or his representative and the leader of the largest Opposition party in the Lok Sabha.

The collegium discusses the names and recommends its choice, though the final decision is taken by the Prime Minister-headed appointments committee of the cabinet.

The CBI’s director’s term is two years from the date he takes charge.

The Narendra Modi government had courted controversy in December 2016 by appointing Asthana, then an additional director, as the acting CBI chief, ignoring candidates shortlisted for the director’s post. After being prodded by the Supreme Court to appoint a regular director, the Centre had picked Verma.

The rivalry began last October when Verma objected to Asthana’s elevation as special director on the ground that his name figured in a bribery probe. Verma had handed a note of dissent to the appointments committee, headed by the chief vigilance commissioner, but the Centre overruled him.

“Asthana is the No. 2 in the agency and should have succeeded Verma, but in the light of the corruption cases against him it has become untenable for the Centre to appoint him as the next CBI director,” said an official.

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