‘Went to his daughter’s wedding’: Judge Ramana recuses from hearing interim CBI chief case
Justice NV Ramana on Thursday became the third Supreme Court judge to recuse himself from hearing a petition challenging the appointment of M Nageshwar Rao as the interim director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
According to news agency ANI, Ramana has sought transparency in the process of short-listing, selection and appointment of the CBI director.
While recusing himself from hearing the matter, Justice Ramana said Rao is from his home state. “Nageswara Rao is from my home state and I have attended his daughter’s wedding,” Justice Ramana said.
Earlier, Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice AK Sikri had recused themselves from hearing the same matter.
The Central Bureau of Investigation has been working under interim director M Nageswara Rao after Alok Verma was removed as its chief on charges of corruption and dereliction of duty by the high-powered committee headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
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.
They 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 the composition of the panel, its mandate and minutes of the meeting of the search committee to be made public.
Alok Verma and his deputy, CBI special director Rakesh Asthana, were engaged in a feud that affected the agency’s functioning. Asthana levelled charges of corruption against Verma in a letter to the cabinet secretary in August last year.
The probe agency filed a first information report (FIR) against Asthana in October last year. 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 top court and it 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.
The panel, which also comprises leader of the largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge of Congress, and CJI Gogoi had however removed Verma as the chief within a few days of the verdict.
Rao, who was appointed as interim chief of the premier investigation agency in October when Verma and his deputy were sent on leave, was re-appointed as the interim chief of the agency.
The government meanwhile has initiated the process of looking for Verma’s successor.