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Govt, not selection panel, empowered to appoint CBI chief: Centre to Supreme Court

The Supreme Court was hearing petitions seeking reinstatement of ousted CBI chief Alok Verma , who along with his deputy Rakesh Asthana, was removed in a midnight order on October 23 as a culmination of a long internal feud between the two over charges of corruption.

india Updated: Nov 29, 2018 16:24 IST
Ashok Bagriya
Ashok Bagriya
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
CBI,Supreme Court,CBI in Supreme Court
Ousted CBI chief Alok Verma (seated) seen with his deputy Rakesh Asthana. Both were divested of duties on October 23 following internal feud between the two over corruption charges.(Ravi Choudhary/HT file photo)

The final authority in appointing a CBI director is the Central government, Attorney General KK Venugopal told Supreme Court on Thursday during a hearing on a bunch of petitions, including one by the ousted CBI chief Alok Verma seeking reinstatement.

“The committee selects a group of candidates for the appointment of Director of CBI, and puts it up before the government. Then, it is the government which appoints the right candidate, out of these,” Venugopal said.

The hearing was later adjourned till December 5.

The CBI director and his deputy Rakesh Asthana were removed in a midnight order on October 23 as a culmination of a long internal feud between the two over charges of corruption.

The top court was hearing a bunch of petitions on whether the move to strip the CBI director of his responsibilities was legal. Among the petitioners were ousted CBI director Alok Verma, A non-profit organization Common Cause and leader of Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge.

Lawyers Fali S Nariman, who represents, Verma, said government could not have transferred Alok Verma without getting approval of the high-powered panel that had cleared his appointment.

“How could the government divest Alok Verma of his powers without convening the committee’s meeting? If this is allowed, what happens to the autonomy and independence of CBI,” Nariman told the bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi.

Justice KM Joseph, who is also on the bench hearing the case asked, “Suppose a CBI chief is caught red handed accepting bribe, should the Committee be approached for taking action against him?”

To this Nariman replied, “Even in that situation the committee has to be taken into confidence and only court can decide on the fate of the director.”

Dushyant Dave, who represents Common Cause, also argued that the transfer should not have happened without consulting the appointments committee.

The order is against rule of law, he said. “For the same reason, appointment of M Nageshwar Rao as interim director should also be set aside,” Dushyant Dave concluded. “This matter has to go to the Committee. The committee can then take a decision based on the material on record,” said Kapil Sibal who represents leader of Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge.

The ambit of power of superintendence of CVC is limited. They can’t simply use this to remove a director of the CBI, or seal his office, Sibal said.

The Congress leader in his petition had said that he, being on the three- member committee that selects the CBI chief, should be heard before any order is passed in the case. The CBI director is appointed by a panel comprising the prime minister, the chief justice and the leader of the opposition.

First Published: Nov 29, 2018 15:50 IST