The high-powered committee which ousted Alok Verma as CBI Director on January 10 will meet on January 24 to select his successor. Headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the committee includes Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Mallikarjun Kharge, Leader of Congress in Lok Sabha.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court Wednesday said it will hear next week a petition by NGO Common Cause that has challenged the appointment of M Nageswara Rao as CBI Interim Director on the ground that it “was apparently not made on the basis of recommendations of the high-powered selection committee”. The petition wants a full-time Director appointed.
The decision to call a meeting of the committee on January 24 follows 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”.
Following Verma’s removal, Kharge told The Indian Express that the decision to appoint the Interim Director was not discussed at the January 10 meeting.
In his letter to the Prime Minister, Kharge urged him to make public the findings of the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), Justice A K Patnaik’s report on Verma as well as minutes of the January 10 meeting. Justice Patnaik, who had been asked by the Supreme Court to supervise the probe against Verma, disowned the CVC findings, saying these were not his.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court decided to hear next week the petition by Common Cause, challenging Rao’s appointment.
“It appears that this particular (selection) committee has been completely bypassed by the Union of India which has arbitrarily and without any jurisdiction appointed Nageswara Rao as Interim Director, CBI on January 10, 2019,” the petition stated.
Appearing for the petitioner, advocate Prashant Bhushan mentioned the matter before a bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices L Nageswara Rao and S K Kaul. He urged the court to hear it urgently but but the bench said the matter will come up next week.
The petition stated that the appointment of Interim Director was against provisions of the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act as amended by the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 which provides for the appointment of the CBI, Director by the high-powered committee “which does not have a preponderance of the government and its representatives”.
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”.