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After Alok Verma’s exit, PM-led panel to meet on Jan 24 to select new CBI chief

Two days after he was conditionally reinstated by the Supreme Court as the CBI director (CBI), Alok Verma was on January 10 removed from the agency again by the high-powered selection committee and M Nageswara Rao again named interim director

india Updated: Jan 16, 2019 23:44 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
The selection panel to choose a new CBI chief after Alok Verma will meet on January 24 to decide his successor (File Photo)
The selection panel to choose a new CBI chief after Alok Verma will meet on January 24 to decide his successor (File Photo)(PTI)
         

The panel led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi (or his nominee) and leader of the largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, as its two other members, will meet on January 24 to finalise the name of the next chief of the Central Bureau of Investigation, people familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity.

After Alok Verma’s contentious ouster from CBI on January 10, the agency has been working under interim director M Nageswara Rao. Rao is an additional director in the agency and has been appointed as the interim director till the government selects a regular director. “The government initially proposed that the meeting be held on January 21, but after consultations between members, finalised January 24 as the date for the meeting to select the new CBI director,” said one of the people cited above, a government official.

The move to hold the meeting of the PM-led panel comes even as the Supreme Court has agreed to hear a petition challenging the appointment of Rao as interim director.

The petitioner, NGO Common Cause, claim Rao’s appointment was not based on the recommendation of the selection panel and, thus, in complete contravention of the law. The petitioners have sought appointment of a regular chief of the agency.

The petitioners also want all records of deliberations and rational criteria related to short-listing and selection of the CBI director to be made available under the transparency law. They have also asked for the entire process of selection, including composition of the panel, its mandate and minutes of the meeting of the search committee to be made public.

The court is yet to fix a date for hearing, but said on Wednesday that it is likely to schedule it for next week.

Watch: Mallikarjun Kharge on Alok Verma: ‘Action was taken only on basis of CVC report’

Alok Verma took charge as the CBI chief on February 1, 2017 and his formal tenure was supposed to end on January 31, 2019. CBI chiefs get a fixed two-year term by law. Verma and his deputy, CBI special director Rakesh Asthana, were engaged in an internecine feud that affected the agency’s functioning. In August, Asthana levelled charges of corruption against Verma in a letter to the cabinet secretary. In October, the CBI filed a first information report (FIR) against Asthana. On the intervening night of October 23 and 24, the government divested both of their powers. Rao took charge as the interim director for the first time on the intervening night of October 23 and 24.

Verma challenged the government order in the Supreme Court and the court conditionally reinstated him as the CBI chief on January 8, saying that only the selection panel could remove him. The panel decided by a majority decision of 2-1 to remove Verma on January 10. Besides the PM and Kharge, the panel meeting was attended by the Supreme Court judge, Justice AK Sikri, as a nominee of chief justice Gogoi, who didn’t participate since he had heard Verma’s petition.

In between all this, the government initiated the process of looking for Verma’s successor.

As per the guidelines set by the Supreme Court, officers from the four oldest serving batches of the Indian Police Service, from 1982 to 1985, will be in contention for the post of CBI director. Their suitability for the job will depend on criteria such as seniority, integrity and experience in investigation of anti-corruption cases. In terms of experience in investigation of anti-corruption cases, prior experience of working in CBI or handling vigilance matters in the cadre matter.

“The home ministry sent a list of around one-and-a-half dozen eligible officials to the ministry of personnel, and now, the names of these officials will be put before the selection panel for consideration in order of their eligibility,” another official said on condition of anonymity.

First Published: Jan 16, 2019 17:19 IST

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