The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC), headed by the then prime minister Manmohan Singh, had trashed the Ministry of Home Affairs’ opinion of appointing IPS officer Archana Ramasundaram as additional director of the CBI.
The ACC, which was not left with many choices after the MHA recommended some other officer for the post, decided to get a legal opinion from the then solicitor general, and procured a favourable one to go ahead with her appointment.
Affidavits submitted in the Supreme Court by the MHA and jointly by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) and ACC Tuesday brought the new facts to light that the Home Secretary had in fact favoured IPS officer R K Pachnanda for appointment despite CBI director Ranjit Sinha’s objections.
Sinha has already told the court in his affidavit that he stood by the government’s discretion in appointing Ramasundaram since Pachnanda had adverse reports against him, whereas she was the “most suitable” for the post.
The MHA’s affidavit states that the CVC select committee, the statutory body to recommend appointments at the high-level positions in the CBI, had selected Pachnanda in November last after the Home Secretary said nothing adverse could be held against him and that he was also clear from vigilance angle. Home Secretary’s view was required after Sinha had questioned Pachnanda as a choice in view of certain negative reports.
This decision was then put before the DoPT, which asked the CVC in December to send a panel of officers instead of only one name, but to no avail and the unanimous choice was sent back again.
The matter was placed before the ACC next month and it was decided to seek a legal opinion from the then solicitor general Mohan Parasaran on whether the government could make this appointment without a recommendation by the CVC committee.
By his opinion on January 31, Parasaran told the government that they would have a discretion in the matter of appointment and they could proceed as they deemed fit. Within a week thereafter, the ACC cleared Ramasundaram’s name and issued necessary orders.
The DoPT said the government had considered all the facts before choosing Ramasundaram over Pachnanda and that the CVC committee was in the wrong in proposing only one name and not a panel for the contentious appointment.
A bench led by CJI R M Lodha will examine these replies on Monday next week. By then, the central government also needs to explain as to how Ramasundaram was appointed in the CBI when the parent cadre of Tamil Nadu government had not relieved her.
The court had on May 9 restrained her from functioning in the CBI till the legality of her appointment, questioned in a PIL by journalist Vineet Narain, was decided. The interim order had come a day after the Tamil Nadu government had suspended Ramasundaram, allegedly for failing to obtain official consent.