Supreme Court judge Justice A K Sikri on Thursday recused himself from hearing a PIL challenging the appointment of IPS officer M Nageshwar Rao as interim director of CBI. The matter will now be heard next week.
“List the matter next week before a Bench of which one of us (Hon’ble A.K. Sikri, J.) is not a member, after obtaining orders from Hon’ble the Chief Justice of India,” the bench, which also comprised Justices S Abdul Nazeer and M R Shah, directed.
Though the court had initially said the matter be heard Friday, senior counsel Dushyant Dave, appearing for the petitioner NGO Common Cause, later requested the court that since the meeting of the high-powered committee to select the next CBI Director is on Thursday, the matter be listed for next week. The court agreed to this.
Recusing himself from hearing the petition, Justice Sikri told Dave, “You should understand my position… This has to go before another bench.”
Justice Sikri was part of the January 10 meeting of the high-powered committee when it decided to transfer CBI director Alok Verma. He attended the meeting as nominee of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi.
The committee originally comprises the Prime Minister, CJI or a judge nominated by the CJI and Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha. CJI Gogoi opted out of the meeting as a bench headed by him had on January 8 set aside the October 23 orders of Central Vigilance Commission and government divesting Verma of his powers and responsibilities.
After Verma was transferred, the government appointed Rao as interim director and this was challenged by the NGO before the apex court, saying only the high-powered committee could appoint a director for the agency.
When the plea came up before a bench headed by the CJI on January 21, he recused himself from hearing it, saying he had to attend the meeting of the high-powered committee to select a new CBI Director. The CJI also ordered that the case be listed before Justice Sikri, the second most senior judge.
Appearing for the NGO Thursday, Dave said it would have been better if the recusal happened before the matter came up for hearing, as in that case, it would have been listed before some other bench and delay could have been avoided.
Justice Sikri replied that he could not do so as the order listing the case before him was a judicial order. “If it was an order made on the administrative side, I would have told the CJI.”
Dave said, “This has nothing to do with your attending the (January 10) meeting” and “we have no problem if your lordship hears it”. Attorney General K K Venugopal too said Justice asked should hear the case. But Justice Sikri stick to his stand and said, “…please understand my position.”