Two 1984-batch officers, YC Modi of Assam-Meghalaya cadre and Rakesh Asthana of the Gujarat cadre, are out of contention for the post of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) director, it is learnt.
The two candidates, among the frontrunners to the post, were dropped after Chief Justice of India N V Ramana cited a Supreme Court guideline on appointment of police chiefs. CJI Ramana is learnt to have pointed out that the apex court’s guidelines in the Prakash Singh case of March 2019 made it clear that no officer with less than six months to retirement should be appointed as police chief. It is learnt that CJI Ramana was rather insistent on this point.
With Leader of the Opposition Adhir Ranjan Chaudhary supporting CJI Ramana’s arguments, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is learnt to have said the rule of law would be followed in the selection.
While YC Modi, who is currently the chief of the National Investigation Agency, retires at the end of this month, Asthana, who is currently heading the BSF, retires in July. Both, known to be trusted by the Modi regime and having served many years in the CBI, were supposed to be top contenders for the post.
The three choices made by the PM-led Selection Committee (CJI Ramana and Chaudhary being the other two members) on Monday included CISF chief Subodh Jaiswal, SSB DG KR Chandra and Special Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) VSK Kaumudi. Interestingly, of the 109 officers whose list was given to the committee to chose from, these were the only centrally empanelled officers who had more than six months to retirement.
While Chandra will retire in December this year, Jaiswal is due for retirement in September 2022. Kaumudi has the maximum time, with his retirement scheduled on November 30, 2022. However, Jaiswal is the senior-most among the three officers and could be the natural choice for the post, if the government considers seniority. Having worked closely with the Centre as part of Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) earlier, Jaiswal is seen as a frontrunner even though Kaumudi is the only one with prior experience of working in the CBI.
However, in two last appointments to the CBI Director’s post—of Alok Verma and RK Shukla—the government did not bother about prior CBI experience as none had any. Sources said the requirement of prior CBI experience is not a rule.
Sources in the IPS circle said CJI Ramana had set a new precedent in selection of CBI chief. “The Prakash Singh judgment was about appointment of DGPs of state police. CBI appointments are more guided by the Vineet Narain judgment, the CVC Act and the Lokpal Act. This could now spill over to appointments in the IB and R&AW, too, if the government weighs in CJI Ramana’s point,” a senior security establishment officer said.
The chiefs of CBI, IB and R&AW have fixed two-year tenures, but until now, the condition of six month tenure left before appointment has not been followed.
In March 2019, a bench headed by then CJI Ranjan Gogoi had said, “We, therefore, clarify… that recommendation for appointment to the post of Director General of Police by the Union Public Service Commission and preparation of panel should be purely on the basis of merit from officers who have a minimum residual tenure of six months i.e., officers who have at least six months of service prior to the retirement.”
The bench passed the order on an application filed by former DGP of Uttar Pradesh Prakash Singh. Singh had alleged that the July 3, 2018 directive of the apex court, asking UPSC to consider only those IPS officers for appointment as DGP who have two years of service left, was being misused by state governments who were ignoring competent senior officers.
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