The government made more than a gender statement by ‘snubbing’ the Central Vigilance Commissioner-led panel to appoint Archana Ramasundaram as the CBI’s additional director (AD) earlier this week. But it is believed to have done the 1980-batch IPS officer from Tamil Nadu more harm than good.
CBI insiders said the government broke a ‘huge glass ceiling’ by appointing Ramasundaram as AD. She will be the first woman to hold the third highest rank in the agency. She could also be the agency’s first woman director in a couple of years but it depends on her passing the court test.
“I am moving the Supreme Court on Friday against the appointment,” journalist-social activist Vineet Narain of Jain-Hawala case fame, said.
An IPS officer, privy to appointments in the agency, said Ramasundaram’s appointment is likely to be quashed. “The controversy is thus totally unfair to her, a capable and deserving officer,” the IPS officer added.
Those in the know of things said the government-CVC row over the appointment started three months ago. According to the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, under which the CBI functions, the CVC-led panel — with two vigilance commissioners, home secretary and secretary ( co-ordination and public grievances) as members — recommends to the government names of officers for all appointments in the agency above the rank of superintendent of police.
“The names of senior IPS officers Archana Ramasundaram, Ashok Kumar, SK Bhagat and RK Pachnanda were forwarded to the CVC-led panel for recommending one of them for the AD post. But problems cropped up immediately as names of senior IPS officers like Kamlendra Prasad, NP Singh and NR Wasan were not sent to the panel,” another senior IPS officer working with a central agency said on condition of anonymity.
The panel unanimously recommended Pachnanda, a 1983 batch IPS officer of West Bengal cadre. CBI director Ranjit Sinha objected to the choice. “The government negated six issues raised against Pachnanda but returned his file to the CVC under Sinha’s pressure,” a government official said.
Refusing to buckle, the panel persisted with Pachnanda’s name. But the government consulted its law officers and opted for Ramasundaram.
Former vigilance commissioner R Sri Kumar, who before his retirement participated in few of the meetings for the AD’s post, and senior Supreme Court lawyer KK Venugopal told HT that the government does not have the mandate to send back the name recommended by the CVC-led panel.
While appointment imbroglio has put Ramasundaram on a sticky wicket, it has resulted in a collateral damage — the promotion to AD of CBI’s senior most joint director Javeed Ahmad. “For inexplicable reasons, Ahmad’s empanelment to rank of additional director general with central government, which will make him eligible for AD’s post in the CBI, is getting delayed,” a CBI officer said.