Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi Monday recused himself from hearing the petition challenging the appointment of M Nageshwar Rao as the interim chief of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The CJI cited that he is part of the high-level committee that will meet on January 24 to appoint the new CBI chief. Rao’s hearing is scheduled for the same day.
Rao’s appointment was challenged by NGO Common Cause. The petition states that the appointment of Nageshwar Rao was “not made on the basis of recommendations of the high-powered selection committee”.
The petition wants a full-time director appointed. It also seeks that the procedure laid down in Section 4A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946, amended by the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 should be followed for the appointment of the CBI director.
The petitioner alleged that “Government… has attempted to stifle the independence of the institution of the CBI by appointing the Director of the CBI in an arbitrary and illegal manner” and that “the lack of transparency in the process of appointment prevents any meaningful public scrutiny and allows the government to exercise undue influence in the process especially at the stage of short-listing of candidates, thereby undermining the institution of the CBI”.
After the removal of former CBI chief Alok Verma by the committee headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Rao was named as the interim chief of the agency for the second time.
Verma was transferred as Director General of Fire Services, Civil Defence and Home Guards, an offer which he refused and subsequently resigned from the Indian Police Services (IPS) instead.
The decision to call a meeting of the committee on January 24 follows Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge’s letter to the Prime Minister, urging the convening of a meeting at the earliest. The lone dissenter in the 2-1 decision that led to the ouster of Verma over alleged charges of corruption, Kharge called the appointment of Rao as Interim Director “illegal”.