Gujarat IPS duo lead CBI director race
Controversial IPS officer Rakesh Asthana and National Investigation Agency chief Y.C. Modi, both considered close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, are among the front-runners for the post of the next CBI director, government sources have told The Telegraph.
The country’s premier investigative agency is now headed by interim director Praveen Sinha, a Gujarat-cadre IPS officer like Asthana, after regular director Rishi Kumar Shukla demitted office on February 2 on the expiry of his two-year tenure.
The Supreme Court is hearing a writ petition filed by the NGO Common Cause seeking the appointment of a regular CBI director through the high-powered selection committee having the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice of India and the leader of the largest Opposition party or his representative.
The petition, filed last week, had pointed out that instead of making a regular appointment to the top CBI post, the Centre had appointed Sinha as an interim director.
The court on Friday issued notice to the Centre and posted the matter for hearing after two weeks.
The sources said the process to select a new director had started and the department of personnel and training (DoPT) had sought the names of eligible IPS officers belonging to the 1984, 1985 and 1986 batches from the Amit Shah-helmed Union home ministry.
Y.C. Modi, a 1984-batch Assam-and-Meghalaya-cadre IPS officer, was part of the Supreme Court-appointed special investigation team (SIT) that probed the 2002 Gujarat riots when Narendra Modi was chief minister. The SIT had given the future Prime Minister a clean chit in the Gulbarg Society massacre in which 69 people had been killed.
Asthana, also a 1984-batch IPS officer, had as inspector-general overseen the initial probe into the Godhra train burning that culminated in the riots.
Last year the CBI had given a clean chit to Asthana, a former CBI special director, in connection with a bribery scandal in 2018. The case had triggered an unprecedented public feud between Asthana and then CBI director Alok Verma. Both had been benched by the Centre after an unusual midnight raid.
Asthana is presently the director-general of the Border Security Force (BSF).
A DoPT official said the stakes were high in the race for the CBI top post and lobbying had started. Besides Y.C. Modi and Asthana, the other officers in the fray include Gujarat-cadre IPS officer Keshav Kumar and interim CBI director Sinha.
The sources said political considerations were important in the appointment of the CBI director.
Candidates for CBI director are shortlisted by the DoPT, which has administrative control over the investigative agency and reports to the Prime Minister’s Office. The names are then sent to the Central Vigilance Commission for clearance. Once approved, the names are sent to the high-powered selection committee.
The committee discusses the names and recommends its choice, though the final decision is taken by the Prime Minister-headed appointments committee of the cabinet.