Supreme Court on Friday refused to direct the Centre to place before it the minutes of the meeting of a high-powered committee, comprising the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice of India and the Leader of Opposition, which has selected Delhi Police Commissioner Alok Kumar Verma as the new CBI Director. “It (direction to call for minutes of the meeting) is not within the ambit of this writ petition. As far as this writ petition is concerned, it is over now,” a bench comprising Justices Kurian Joseph and A M Khanwilkar said.
The apex court said this after it was informed by Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi and Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta that the appointment to the post of CBI Director has been made and senior IPS officer Alok Kumar Verma has been appointed. The Centre also ruled out the demand by the NGO, Common Cause, seeking a direction to it to place before the bench the minutes of the meeting of the high-level panel on the matter.
“Where is the question of placing the minutes of meeting now? A decision has been taken and order has been issued. Why are you (Bhushan) pushing for something which is over? There is no question of placing the minutes of the meeting,” Rohatgi told the bench, which disposed of the plea.
Mehta also told the bench that the committee comprises the Prime Minister, CJI and the Leader of Opposition and “their wisdom cannot be questioned” like this. Advocate Prashant Bhushan, representing the NGO, urged the bench to direct the Centre to place before it the minutes of meeting of the committee. “Let them place the minutes of meeting. Last time the Attorney General had said they would place the minutes of the meeting before the court,” he said.
Bhushan also told the bench that the minutes have to be seen to ascertain whether the new appointment has been made by following the law and procedure laid down by the apex court earlier. He claimed that the meeting of the selection committee was not convened in December despite the fact that the earlier CBI Director Anil Sinha had retired on December 2. However, his arguments did not cut much ice with the bench which reminded him that there was a “change in guard” at the helm of CJI also.
Bhushan also raised the issue of appointment of Rakesh Asthana as an interim CBI Director allegedly without following the prescribed procedure, but the bench said now “nothing survives in this writ petition” as the Centre has informed it that a new person has been selected. He also said there have been media reports that there was a dissent in the selection of Verma as the CBI Director and therefore there was a need to place on record the minutes to see how the decision was taken.
Alok Kumar Verma, the Delhi Police Commissioner, was yesterday appointed as the new CBI Chief and his name was cleared by a three-member selection panel headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and comprising Chief Justice of India Jagdish Singh Khehar and Congress leader in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge as members. Kharge is understood to have recorded his dissent note on Verma’s name during the meeting of the selection committee held on January 16, on the ground that the officer had never served in the CBI.
Earlier, the Centre had rubbished the claim that services of senior IPS officer R K Dutta, who was overseeing probe in 2G and coal scams, was curtailed in a “malafide” manner and asserted that the provisions governing the probe agency had been complied with. Rohatgi had also opposed the contention that there was malafide in shunting out Dutta from CBI and appointing Rakesh Asthana as the interim Director. The apex court had on December 9 last year sought the Centre’s response on the plea challenging the appointment of Asthana as the interim director of CBI after shifting of Dutta by curtailing his tenure in the agency.
The petition had alleged that the Centre 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”. Asthana, an IPS officer of 1984-batch, was elevated as CBI’s Additional Director on December 2 when its Special Director R K Dutta, who was reportedly among the frontrunners for the top post, was shifted to the Ministry of Home Affairs as Special Secretary.
The plea had claimed that the government did not convene a meeting of the selection committee, even though it was fully aware that Anil Sinha was going to demit office of CBI Director on December 2. It had alleged that the government had “prematurely curtailed” Dutta’s tenure and transferred him to MHA on November 30 just two days before Sinha was slated to demit office.