The Telegraph
Sunday, November 19, 2017

Plea to scrap CBI selection

New Delhi: A non-government organisation on Thursday moved the Supreme Court for quashing IPS officer Rakesh Asthana's appointment as CBI special director, saying the selection had been cleared despite reported objections from the chief of the central investigative agency.

Common Cause, the NGO, alleged that the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, had also violated the top court's judgment in selecting the Gujarat-cadre officer who had overseen the initial probe into the 2002 Godhra train burning case.

The court, the NGO contended, had in a number of cases said the principle of "impeccable integrity and institutional integrity" must be observed while making appointments to institutions like the CBI.

The NGO said CBI director Alok Verma had objected to Asthana's appointment on the ground that his name figured in a recent FIR the agency had registered against some income tax and police officials in a bribery case involving a Gujarat-based firm.

According to the FIR, Asthana's name figured in a diary, seized from the company premises in 2011, that purportedly mentions suspected payments to some police officials and politicians.

Asthana was then police commissioner of Surat.

The petition, which is yet to come up for hearing, quoted reports to claim that Verma had objected in writing at an October 21 selection committee meeting chaired by central vigilance commissioner K.V. Chowdary. The others who attended the meting were the two vigilance commissioners and the secretaries of the home ministry and the department of personnel and training.

But the very next day, a Sunday, the NGO said the cabinet's appointments committee, which also includes the home minister, issued an order appointing Asthana. The order, the petition added, was issued late in the night.

Asked about the controversy, Asthana had texted last month: "Please check with concerned authorities.... I have no knowledge."

A CBI spokesperson had said: "There is no case against Asthana."

The NGO also referred to the media conference Chowdary held on October 26, justifying the appointment on the ground that the CBI director was not a member of the selection committee and only needed to be consulted.

The petition pointed out that under Section 4C of the Delhi Special Police Establishments Act, 1946, the CBI director has to be mandatorily "consulted" for his consent before recommendations for any appointment above the level of superintendent of police are made.

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