The appointment of CBI Special Director Rakesh Asthana, who was sent by the government on administrative leave along with CBI Director Alok Verma, had been challenged in the Supreme Court last year. The case was heard by three benches in a span of just a few days before being dismissed.
The apex court had agreed to hear a plea challenging the appointment of Gujarat-cadre IPS officer Asthana as CBI Special Director in November 13, 2017. The petition, by NGO Common Cause, termed the decision “illegal” and “arbitrary” and claimed that the CBI was probing a matter in which Asthana’s name had cropped up.
Demanding quashing of Asthana’s appointment, the plea also sought a direction to the Centre to transfer him out of the agency during pendency of the investigation. The petition claimed that the government and the selection committee had overruled the opinion of the then CBI Director (Alok Verma) in violation of the law.
The matter was mentioned before a bench comprising Justices J Chelameswar and S Abdul Nazeer by advocate Prashant Bhushan, who sought an urgent listing of the plea. “The matter is about a gentleman’s appointment as a special director of CBI. We are challenging it. Kindly list the matter urgently on Friday or Monday,” Bhushan said.
Justice Chelameswar decided to send the matter to the second seniormost bench as he did not wish to hear a matter involving someone he knew well, namely Central Vigilance Commissioner K V Chowdary.
The matter was then sent to the bench of court number 3, next in seniority, of Justice Ranjan Gogoi. But when the matter came up before Justices Gogoi and Navin Sinha, Justice Sinha recused himself without citing any reason. The bench said the matter would be listed before “an appropriate bench” on November 17, 2017.
But instead of going to the bench comprising Justice Gogoi and now Justice Rohinton Nariman, it went to the bench of Justices R K Agrawal — appointed Chairman, National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission in May on retirement — and A M Sapre. They initially said the plea would be heard on November 20, but deferred it by four days after Bhushan, appearing for the petitioner Common Cause, said he wanted time to file additional documents. “I need to file additional affidavit to place some additional documents. So please fix it for next Friday,” Bhushan told the court.
The bench agreed to the submission and posted the matter for hearing on November 24. It heard the matter, then reserved its judgment till November 28, when it eventually dismissed the petition.