Judge drops CBI case
Justice A.K. Sikri, the Supreme Court’s second senior-most judge, on Thursday withdrew himself from hearing a plea that has challenged the appointment of M. Nageshwar Rao as the CBI’s interim director in what appeared to be a bid to avoid a fresh controversy.
“Mr Dave, I wish I could take up this matter. Thanks for having faith in me, but please understand my position,” Justice Sikri observed.
The judge, who was part of a bench that included Justices S. Abdul Nazeer and M.R. Shah, referred the matter back to Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi for setting up a fresh bench.
Senior advocate Dushayant Dave, who was appearing for the NGO Common Cause, which had filed the plea, had opposed Justice Sikri’s recusal saying it would send a wrong message that the court wasn’t keen on hearing the matter.
“Your Lordships, unfortunately an impression is being created that the Supreme Court does not want to hear the matter, because the CJI had also recused himself. If Your Lordships want to recuse, it could have been done before the hearing,” Dave said.
On Monday, Justice Gogoi had withdrawn himself from hearing the plea, citing his role as a member of the three-member panel that selects the agency boss.
“This court had gone out of its way when it came to the removal of (then CBI chief) Shri Alok Verma, but when it comes to a new appointment, it is not inclined to hear the matter.”
Justice Sikri is due to retire on March 6. The matter is now likely to come up on Friday before Justice S.A. Bobde, the court’s third senior-most judge.
Verma had been removed as CBI director on January 10 after the three-member panel of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Justice Sikri — the CJI’s representative at the selection committee meeting — and Opposition leader Mallikarjun Kharge had arrived at a 2:1 decision to sack Verma.
Kharge had dissented on the ground that the committee had not given the CBI officer, whom the court had reinstated on January 8, an opportunity to rebut the allegations.
The Centre named Rao interim director the same day. On January 13, Justice Sikri had withdrawn his consent to a post-retirement position in the London-based Commonwealth Secretariat Arbitral Tribunal where the government had decided to nominate him as a member last month.