Centre begins hunt for new CBI chief as probe continues against agency boss
The Supreme Court is hearing Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) director Alok Kumar Verma’s case challenging the government’s decision to divest him of his powers, but the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) has parallelly and independently kicked off the exercise it does every two years — to compile the list of officers at the director general level eligible for selection as the next chief of the federal agency, people familiar with the matter said.
This list usually forms the universe from which the CBI director is chosen by a committee comprising the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, and the Chief Justice of India. Verma is to retire on January 31, 2019.
A home ministry official, who asked not to be named, said the process is a routine one and has nothing to do with the Verma case which will be heard by the apex court on December 5.
On October 23, the government divested both Verma and his deputy Rakesh Asthana of their powers after an internecine battle between the two roiled CBI. Asthana complained about Verma’s integrity in a letter to the cabinet secretary in August. Alleging corruption, CBI filed a complaint against Asthana on October 15. Soon after, Verma challenged the government order in the top court .
According to guidelines set by the Supreme Court in 2004, officers from the four oldest serving batches of the Indian Police Service —from 1982 to 1985 — will be in contention for the post. 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 cadre will get weightage.
By virtue of seniority, integrity and experience in probing anti-corruption cases, the officers who could be in the universe include special secretary (internal security) in the Union home ministry Rina Mitra (1983 batch), Border Security Force chief Rajnikant Mishra, National Investigation Agency chief YC Modi, Indo-Tibetan Border Police chief SS Deswal, Central Industrial Security Force chief Rajesh Ranjan, director of national institute of criminology and forensic science Javeed Ahmad, and Research & Analysis Wing special secretary Vivek Johri (all 1984 batch).
Besides Mitra, all of them are also batchmates of CBI special director Rakesh Asthana, who is now fighting a legal battle in the Delhi high court to quash the FIR against him by his own agency.
Rajasthan police chief OP Galhotra, Railway Protection Force chief Arun Kumar and UP police director general rank official HC Awasthi (all from 1985 batch) will also be contention .
All of them (both 1984 and 1985 batch) have served in CBI earlier.
“As initiation of the process, the ministry of personnel, which the administrative ministry of CBI, had sought names of officers eligible to become the agency chief from the batches of 1982 to 1985 of the IPS. The home ministry has provided these names to the ministry of personnel,” added the home ministry official.
A 1984 batch IPS officer whose name figures in the list confirmed the initiation of the process but asked not to be named. “The list has reached the ministry of personnel.” Once the officers are shortlisted, the ministry of personnel will seek vigilance clearance for all eligible officers.
“The vigilance clearance is sought from the state the officers belong to, from the ministry of home affairs since it is cadre controlling authority for the IPS officers and the Central Vigilance Commission, the top vigilance body of the country,” said NR Wasan, former chief of the Bureau of Police Research and Development.
Before the enactment of the Lokpal Act, a panel headed by the Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) with two vigilance commissioners, home secretary and secretary (coordination and public grievances) in the cabinet secretariat as its members, used to deliberate on the list of officers given by the home ministry and recommend a final list of officers, generally consisting of three names, to the government for appointment as CBI chief.
Following the enactment of Lokpal Act in 2014, the committee headed by the CVC has been substituted by a committee headed by the PM, the leader of the single-largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha, and the Chief Justice of India or a Supreme Court judge who is the CJI’s nominee.
“The ministry of personnel will now send the list of all eligible officers to the committee headed by the PM which will deliberate and recommend a name of names of officers to the government and the government will issue the final order. Anil Sinha was first CBI chief who was appointed under the new process in 2014,” said the official. A government official, meanwhile, refuted reports that the Centre was considering appointing an officer on special duty of director general rank to look after the CBI’s affairs or even posting an IAS officer in a supervisory role at the agency.
“The Government of India strongly refutes this imputation. It is clarified that the Government has taken the step of divesting the present Director and Special Director of the CBI of their powers under section 4(2) of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946 as an interim measure,” the official said.