OBJECTING TO the manner in which IPS officer Rakesh Asthana has been given “additional charge” as CBI Director, the Congress on Wednesday accused the government of attempting to “manipulate” and “vitiate” the selection process.
In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Mallikarjun Kharge, Leader of Congress in the Lok Sabha, has expressed concern over Asthana’s appointment and the “sudden transfer” of R K Dutta, one of the frontrunners for the job, from the CBI to the Home Ministry, days before the appointment.
“The government failed to convene a meeting which was to be chaired by you to finalise the selection of the director. With the sudden transfer of Special Director R K Dutta, the senior-most officer after the Director, as Special Secretary to the Ministry of Home Affairs, on 30th November 2016, it now appears that this was done deliberately to facilitate giving the charge of the post of CBI Director to an officiating junior officer,” Kharge has said in the letter.
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“It thus gives rise to apprehensions that the process of selecting the Director, CBI, has been vitiated and is being manipulated to pre-empt the decision to be arrived at in the meeting of the selection committee,” he has written.
The selection committee comprises the Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha and Chief Justice of India.
While Anil Sinha retired as CBI Director on December 2, Kharge has asked why his successor was not selected on time and in the regular manner.
Asthana, a 1984-batch Gujarat cadre officer, is three years junior to Dutta. Since Asthana, who was Additional Director, CBI, has only been given “additional charge” as CBI Director, his appointment did not need to be decided by the selection committee.
But the committee will have to meet at some point, either to regularise Asthana’s appointment or appoint someone else as full-time Director. Kharge has asked the Prime Minister to convene a meeting of the selection committee immediately.
“The credibility of the premier investigating agency demands that a meritorious and experienced officer of requisite seniority is selected for appointment as Director, CBI, without any delay,” he has said.
Kharge also tried to raise the issue in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday but his remarks were expunged.
Meanwhile, a petition challenging the appointment of Asthana has been admitted by the Supreme Court and will be heard on Friday. “Okay…it will come up on Friday,” said Chief Justice of India T S Thakur, after advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for petitioner NGO Common Cause, mentioned the plea for an urgent listing.
The PIL has alleged that the central government took a series of steps in a “completely mala fide, arbitrary and illegal manner to ensure that Asthana was given the charge of CBI director”.