The Central Bureau of Investigation may have a new director before the New Year.
Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge has proposed four dates before December 28 for a meeting of the Prime Minister-headed selection committee to appoint a CBI director.
If the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) holds the meeting on one of the four dates, the CBI could get a full-time chief by the month-end.
The government had earlier this month appointed Gujarat-cadre IPS officer Rakesh Asthana as an interim director of the premier investigating agency, triggering protests from Kharge, who accused the Centre of trying to manipulate the selection process.
The PMO denied the charge and promised to hold the selection committee meeting on any day convenient to the members after the winter session of Parliament.
Sources said Kharge had lobbed the ball back into the government’s court and suggested four dates – December 16, 17, 26 and 28 – when the meeting could be convened.
Kharge is a member of the selection panel headed by the Prime Minister as he is the leader of the largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha.
Chief Justice of India TS Thakur is the third member.
But the Congress leader hasn’t been the only one raising questions about the government working around the law that requires the CBI boss to be appointed by bipartisan support.
This was done by giving Asthana additional charge of the CBI director’s post, which does not require the selection panel’s approval.
Also, the government sidestepped the rule that the senior-most officer be given additional charge by shifting RK Dutta out of the CBI.
Dutta was sent packing to the home ministry to a non-existent post to edge him out of the way.
Hearing a petition, the Supreme Court asked the government to report back with all facts about Dutta’s transfer, particularly since he was supervising SC-monitored probes.
The court had earlier this year frowned at the government keeping the Enforcement Directorate without a full-time chief for more than a year.