Questioning the Centre’s attempt to “superimpose” the choice of Archana Ramasundaram, the Supreme Court on Friday restrained the IPS officer from functioning as additional director of the CBI until further orders.
A bench led by Chief Justice R M Lodha issued the interim restraint order, noting there was a “very strong prima facie case” to stall the central government’s move, since it amounted to nullifying statutory provisions.
The bench censured the Centre for trying to supersede another authority, constituted under the law for such selections, and asked Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran to produce all pertinent files for its scrutiny on July 14.
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The court order added another twist to the controversy around the appointment of the first woman additional director of the CBI. Hours after she joined duty, the Tamil Nadu cadre officer was suspended by the state government on Thursday, allegedly for failing to obtain official consent.
Meanwhile, the court, citing relevant provisions of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act and CVC guidelines, underlined there was a committee that had to send its recommendation to the government for appointments to posts above the level of superintendent of police in the CBI.
“It is for the committee to decide and you have to give effect to it. You cannot substitute for its choices. You may legislate but till the time this law is in force, you have to give effect to it. You cannot decide for the committee,” the bench said.
The remarks came as Parasaran sought to find flaws with the selection committee’s decision to recommend only one name (of a different officer) instead of a panel of names for the post. He maintained that despite reminders, the committee had stuck to one name.
“So what? It is a fact that the committee did not recommend her (Ramasundaram’s) name. You have to give effect to what the committee recommends. If the law asks you to do a thing in a particular way, you have to do in that way or not do it all,” the bench retorted.
The court added: “It cannot be permitted to work in this way. A very strong prima facie case is made out for interim orders once you say her name was not recommended by the committee. This is an indirect way of overriding the committee. It amounts to virtually nullifying the statutory scheme.”
The court said that it was open to the committee to recommend only one name, and if the government had issues with it, it could point out to the committee the lacuna in the decision.
Counsel for Ramasundaram requested the court not to pass any orders that may have an impact on her career. The bench said it was only concerned that the appointments must happen in accordance with the law.
It said in view of the prima facie case, there seemed no justification to allow Ramasundaram to function as the additional director till the court was satisfied with the process adopted.
The court also made CBI director Ranjit Sinha a party to the case, and issued him a notice.
The order was passed on a PIL filed by journalist Vineet Narain, who submitted that Ramasundaram’s appointment was arbitrary, since it was done disregarding the SC’s earlier verdict on letting the committee decide appointments.
The SC had on April 28 sought the Centre’s explanation for taking the decision disregarding the recommendation of the selection committee.
Ramasundaram, who hails from Uttar Pradesh, belongs to the IPS batch of 1980, and was part of the team that investigated the Abdul Karim
Telgi stamp paper scam. She has the reputation of being a “competent” officer.
It has been suggested that there is a “political angle” to the controversy involving Ramasundaram. According to a senior AIADMK leader, the officer’s husband, S Ramasundaram, was in charge of M Karunanidhi’s pet project of constructing a new assembly-cum-secretariat complex, and was seen as being close to the DMK chief’s son M K Stalin.
S Ramasundaram’s sister is Sarubala Thondaiman, a former mayor who is now the Congress candidate in Tiruchirappalli. Sarubala is married to Rajagopal Thondaiman, scion of the erstwhile Pudukottai princely state.
According to several IAS officers, S Ramasundaram, who belonged to the 1979 batch, was a “good officer without any political affiliations”. He, however, surprisingly took voluntary retirement in November 2010, six months before the 2011 Assembly elections. As expected, the DMK lost power and Jayalalithaa became chief minister. Soon afterward, she converted Karunanidhi’s assembly-secretariat complex into a multi super speciality hospital and medical college.
(With Manoj CG)