In a move aimed at countering concerns that it had manipulated the appointment of the CBI director, the Centre on Thursday made it clear that it was ready to convene the meeting of the selection committee anytime after the Parliament session gets over.
The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has asked Congress leader in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge to spell out his “convenience” after December 16 so that a meeting of the selection committee to appoint the new CBI director could be held.
The PMO’s request to Kharge comes on the heels of reports that the Congress leader in his letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi accused the Centre of “manipulating” the process of selecting the CBI director by appointing a junior officer to head the premier investigating agency.
The government last week ordered Gujarat-cadre IPS officer Rakesh Asthana to hold additional charge as CBI director after Anil Kumar Sinha retired on December 2.
A 1984 batch IPS officer, Asthana had supervised the initial investigation into the Godhra train burning incident when he was inspector general of police, Vadodara range.
The government’s decision to additional charge to Asthana had raised eyebrows, particularly since he was not the senior-most IPS officer in the premier investigating agency.
RK Dutta, a 1981 batch IPS officer held that distinction but Dutta was moved to a home ministry post specially created days earlier to accommodate him.
Minister of State in the PMO Jitendra Singh, who is also in-charge of department of personnel, rebutted the charge in his response to Kharge but did not explain the unavoidable circumstances that prevented the government from convening the meeting in advance.
The CBI chief is selected through a collegium chaired by the Prime Minister with the leader of opposition or the largest party in opposition in the Lok Sabha, and the Chief Justice of India being the other members.
Minister of state in the home ministry Kiren Rijiju had earlier tried to blunt the Congress attack, suggesting that it was unfair to question Asthana’s credentials because he was from Gujarat cadre.“How can we give a colour of an officer by clubbing him with some state?” Rijiju asked.