The tug-of-war over the appointment of IPS officer Archana Ramasundaram as additional director of the CBI witnessed a new twist Friday as CBI director Ranjit Sinha told the Supreme Court that although her name was not recommended by the CVC, the government rightly exercised its “discretion” in appointing her.
Claiming that her appointment was “legal and valid”, Sinha described her as the “most suitable” for the post and pleaded the court to vacate the order restraining her from functioning as the first woman additional director of the CBI.
The affidavit filed by Sinha found favour with her appointment, cleared directly by the PMO, bypassing the CVC. The CVC is authorised to make recommendations for all senior-level appointments in the CBI and it has the power of superintendence over the agency. Following the SC verdict in Vineet Narain’s case, the CVC select committee was set up to recommend officers for appointments in order to insulate CBI from political interference.
In May, the court had restrained Ramasundaram from functioning as CBI additional director, reproaching the Centre’s attempt to “superimpose” the choice of IPS officer.
However Sinha’s affidavit finds no fault with the government and states that the other officer selected by the CVC was not as competent as Ramasundaram and that the appointment committee headed by the then prime minister Manmohan Singh appointed a “more deserving” officer.
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The affidavit stated that IPS officer R K Pachnanda was favoured by the CVC committee, but Sinha shared with it some inputs relating to Pachnanda’s “ineffective supervision” while his posting as Superintendent of Police in Chandigarh.
Sinha also “expressed his reservations regarding suitability and integrity” of Pachnanda. Moreover, a “secret note” was also sent on the issue to the Home Ministry on November 9, 2013 by the special director, CBI.
Although the appointment of Ramasundaram was done without CVC’s consent and a bench led by Chief Justice R M Lodha had slammed the government for trying to have its own people in the CBI, Sinha said Ramasundaram’s appointment did not amount to interference with the independence and autonomy of the CBI. The affidavit stated that in view of Sinha’s reservations against the officer selected by the CVC, the principle of “institutional integrity” has to come into play and it is imperative that the CBI director has a team of officers who enjoy his confidence.
Sinha requested the court to consider vacating its interim restraint order and let Ramasundaram resume her duties, particularly when there are no allegations of malafide and wrongdoings against her.
The court’s interim order on May 9 had come a day after the Tamil Nadu government had suspended Ramasundaram, allegedly for failing to obtain official consent. The order was passed on a PIL filed by Vineet Narain, who said her appointment was arbitrary since it was done disregarding the SC’s earlier verdict on letting the committee decide appointments.
The court had underlined a “very strong prima facie case” to stall the central government’s move since it amounted to nullifying statutory provisions and said there seemed no justification to allow Ramasundaram to function as the additional director till the court was satisfied with the process adopted. The court had then made the CBI director a party to the case and issued him a notice.