The Supreme Court on Friday sought the Centre’s response on a plea challenging the appointment of Gujarat-cadre IPS officer Rakesh Asthana as CBI’s interim director after the government allegedly shifted out a senior officer by curtailing his tenure.
“Why was senior-most officer RK Dutta, supervising high-profile 2G and coal scam cases, shifted out of agency without the nod of this court,” a bench of justices Kurian Joseph and Rohinton Nariman asked while issuing a notice to the government.
“You have to reply on two questions — why Dutta was shifted out of CBI by curtailing his tenure and how the CBI’s interim director was appointed?” the bench said.
The petition contended that after Anil Sinha’s term as Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) director ended on December 2, it was incumbent upon the government to convene a meeting comprising the Prime Minister, leader of opposition and Chief Justice of India (CJI) for the appointment of a new director.
However, no such meeting was called and Asthana was appointed in violation of the law.
The petitioner Common Cause alleged that the Centre took a series of steps in a “completely mala fide, arbitrary and illegal manner to ensure that Asthana was given the charge of CBI director”.
Appearing for the petition, advocate Prashant Bhushan accused the government of destroying the CBI. He said the recent move destroys the objective to completely insulate the premier investigating agency. According to him, Dutta was a seasoned and distinguished officer and had been a part of the anti-corruption team for over a decade.
Additional solicitor general Tushar Mehta said he had received instructions that the government had written a letter to the CJI and was awaiting a date from him to convene the high-powered selection committee.
“The leader of the opposition in LS has been informed too. A meeting shall soon be called to discuss the appointment,” he told the court, assuring to get back with his response on December 16.
Asthana had held several important positions in Gujarat Police. He was also part of an SIT set up by the state to probe the Godhra train burning case.
The plea claimed that the government did not convene a meeting of the selection panel, even though it was aware that Sinha was going to demit the office on December 2. It alleged that the government had “prematurely curtailed” Dutta’s tenure and transferred him to MHA on November 30 just two days before Sinha was slated to demit office.
(With PTI inputs)