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‘Will ensure no officer with BJP link makes the cut’: Congress on CBI chief’s selection

The January 24 meeting of the selection committee headed by the Prime Minister to select the next CBI chief is expected to add to the controversy surrounding the agency with Congress leaders saying Mallikarjun Kharge will play hardball to ensure that no officer with any link to BJP makes the cut.

india Updated: Jan 22, 2019 08:17 IST
HT Correspondents
HT Correspondents
New Delhi
Apart from Mallikarjun Kharge (pictured) — in the panel by virtue of being the leader of the single largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha — and the PM, the panel also has Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi.
Apart from Mallikarjun Kharge (pictured) — in the panel by virtue of being the leader of the single largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha — and the PM, the panel also has Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi. (Sonu Mehta/HT Photo)
         

The January 24 meeting of the high-powered selection committee headed by the Prime Minister to select the next chief of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is expected to add to the controversy surrounding the federal investigative agency with Congress leaders saying Mallikarjun Kharge will play hardball to ensure that no officer with any link to or relationship with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) makes the cut.

Apart from Kharge — in the panel by virtue of being the leader of the single largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha — and the PM, the panel also has Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi.

On Monday, the personnel wing of CBI issued an order transferring 20 officials of the rank of the superintendent of police (SP) and additional SP on the orders of interim director M Nageswara Rao, hours after justice Gogoi recused himself from hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) challenging Nageswara Rao’s appointment on the grounds that the post of interim director does not exist.

Rao was first made interim director of CBI on October 23 and for a second time on January 10.

Gogoi did not hear the PIL, filed by NGO Common Cause, saying he is to participate in a meeting to select a new director. The decision is likely to be made at that meeting on the 24th, people familiar with the matter said. The next date for the hearing of the PIL has also been set for the 24th.

“Let it be posted before another bench,” said justice Gogoi. He added Court Number Two, which is headed by justice AK Sikri, will hear the matter.

Justice Sikri is the second senior-most judge of the top court and was the CJI’s nominee in the panel that cleared the removal of the then CBI director Alok Verma on January 10. The post fell vacant after the committee prima facie found sufficient evidence to approve his ouster from the CBI and post him as Director General (DG), Fire Services. Kharge didn’t agree and wrote a dissent note. Verma subsequently refused to take up the new post pointing out that he has already reached the age of retirement.

That meeting of the selection panel happened after the Supreme Court reinstated Verma conditionally as the head of CBI and asked the committee to look into the Central Vigilance Commission report against him. The reinstatement came 77 days after he was removed as CBI director, on the intervening night of October 23 and 24. Verma and his deputy, the agency’s special director Rakesh Asthana were at the time engaged in an internecine battle.

The Congress believes L’affaire Verma has left the government red-faced and will push its advantage in the selection panel meeting, the Congress functionaries cited in the first instance added.

“We are fine if the panel picks an officer of outstanding credibility and integrity. The officer should not have any truck with the current BJP leadership. The person should be judged only on the basis of his or her CV,” said one of the functionaries.

A second functionary said Kharge is expected to apply extreme caution after the recent fiasco at CBI . “Any effort to push any favoured candidate will be met with resistance.”

On Monday, Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi accused the government of trying to influence the selection “by subterfuge” by creating a tainted shortlist. “Now, Modiji has found another way. Why bother about selection committees, as the committee at least has a leader of Opposition? The new way is to instruct departments of the Government of India which constitute the search body to put before the selection committee names which are skewed — excluding the eligible and the desirable and including the less eligible,” he told reporters, without mentioning any names.

Hindustan Times reported previously that barring the last-minute entry of a dark horse, the race for the top post has narrowed down to four Indian Police Service (IPS) officials of the 1984 batch – National Investigation Agency chief YC Modi, Border Security Force chief Rajni Kant Mishra, external intelligence agency R&AW special secretary Vivek Johri and Central Industrial Security Force chief Rajesh Ranjan, according to officials familiar with the development.

In a related development, senior CBI officer Ajay Kumar Bassi moved the top court questioning his transfer from the Delhi office to the anti-corruption branch in Port Blair. When Verma was conditionally reinstated, he recalled the transfer order against Bassi and reinstated him in the Delhi office. But this was short-lived. In his fresh petition, Bassi said the impugned order intends to victimise him and also to prejudice the investigation against Asthana.

First Published: Jan 22, 2019 07:42 IST

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