M.L. Sharma, the CBI Special Director who was edged out of the race for the CBI director’s post less than an hour before he expected to take charge on Thursday, has proceeded on indefinite leave.
Sharma, who had won the first round of the race to turn up as the government’s choice for the director’s post, is a year senior to Ashwani Kumar, the Himachal Pradesh director general of police. Sharma’s name was, however, struck out on Thursday when the government had a last-minute change of mind.
Sharma was informed about the change earlier in the evening, around the same time that he was waiting for formal orders appointing him to the coveted post. But less than an hour before he was expected to take over from Vijay Shankar on Thursday, Sharma was told that Ashwani Kumar was getting to sit on the chair.
A photo-op — Shankar handing over the baton to his successor — was cancelled; Shankar demitted office, saying the announcement on the successor would come later.
There was no formal announcement, but senior officials at the department of personnel had confirmed that Ashwani Kumar had got the job and his orders were under process.
Late on Thursday night, the government issued orders for Kumar’s appointment to head the agency that is investigating and pursuing criminal and graft cases in trial courts against several former and present chief ministers and leaders, including former Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani in the Babri Masjid demolition case.
The list of politicians under investigation includes SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, UP Chief Minister Mayawati.
Kumar, who will take over on Saturday morning, rubbished charges that the CBI had turned into a tool in the hands of the Centre to browbeat political rivals.
“It is wrong to say that the CBI is a tool in the hands of the Central government. It is a professional organisation with professional autonomy enjoying good reputation world over,” Kumar was quoted as saying. However, the new CBI director defended “legitimate interference” of the government, but said officers should guard against “illegitimate interferences”.
He explained legitimate interferences as directions from the government, to expedite investigation and go deep into the truth of any matter.