A panel chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi will meet Tuesday to name the next CBI director, but an oversight while making changes to a law has made its task a tad complicated.
The three-member panel, it turns out, may have to recommend more than one name to the government to pick from to lead the country’s premier investigating agency.
This also means that the Modi government will have to again amend the CBI law, changes to which were made barely a week ago to give the opposition a voice in appointing India’s top sleuth.
The government had earlier intended that the high-powered committee recommend one officer’s name to succeed Ranjit Sinha, who retires Tuesday. But a provision in the law — spotted recently — requires a panel of officers, not one name, be proposed.
The PM-led panel would seek to build consensus on a single name even if more than one name have to be formally included in its recommendations, sources said.
“The law is clear and we will go by the law tomorrow,” a senior department of personnel and training official told HT Monday.
For the future, however, the Modi government intends to amend the law so that the committee recommends only one name.
Apart from the PM, the two other members are Congress leader in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge and Chief Justice of India HL Dattu or his nominee.
This is the first time that a CBI director is being selected on a bipartisan basis. The new appointment process comes in the backdrop of Sinha’s controversial term.
“You can write I did only bad work…enough dirt has already been cast on me,” he said, when asked to comment on his two-year tenure.
The provision that slipped undetected is Section 4A (3) of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act. Introduced in 2003 when a committee headed by the central vigilance commissioner (CVC) shortlisted eligible candidates, it says, “the committee shall recommend a panel of officers”. But when the CVC committee was replaced by the one headed by the PM, it slipped everyone’s attention that Section 4A (3) also needed to be amended.
“We are going to go to the cabinet very soon to introduce the concept of a search committee to short-list names of potential contenders,” an official said.
(Inputs from Abhishek Sharan)