Supreme Court to hear plea for appointment of regular CBI director today
The Supreme Court on Friday will take up a petition filed by NGO Common Cause seeking the appointment of a regular director for the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
Presently, the premier investigating agency is headed by interim director Pravin Sinha after the regular director, Rishi Kumar Shukla, demitted office on February 2 after serving his tenure of two years. The petition filed in Supreme Court through advocate Prashant Bhushan has sought directions to the Centre to initiate and complete the process of selection of CBI director and to ensure that such process is initiated at least one month prior to the post becoming vacant.
The matter will be heard by a bench of justices L Nageswar Rao and S Ravindra Bhat.
On February 3, 2021, Pravin Sinha assumed office as interim or acting director. His appointment was to last till the appointment of a new director or until further orders.
As per regular practice, a high-powered committee (HPC) headed by Prime Minister and comprising the Leader of the single-largest Opposition Party and the Chief Justice of India (or any judge of the Supreme Court nominated by CJI) recommends the name of the CBI director. This procedure is detailed under Section 4A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act which governs CBI. This process was clearly bypassed in the appointment of the interim director. Also, the HPC had to meet two months before the term of the director expires, the petition said. Once the HPC makes its recommendation, the Department of Personnel and Training issues an order appointing the new director.
The petition said, “The director of the CBI is the final authority in the organisation. He supervises all the work in the CBI and is responsible for constitution of investigating teams for probing cases. Hence, this court and later even Parliament have made determined efforts to enhance the functional autonomy of the CBI director and limit the extent of executive discretion in the matter of appointment of this key functionary.”
This is not the first time the NGO Common Cause has approached the Supreme Court over the appointment of CBI director. In 2016, the NGO had similarly faulted the government’s move to appoint an interim director. “Now again the same issue has cropped up which has to be dealt with utmost seriousness in view of the sheer power that vests with the important office of a CBI director,” the petition stated.
According to the petition, the CBI is probing cases involving rampant corruption in high places in the country. The manifest unwillingness of the government to institute a transparent and accountable system to ensure that the culprits are punished seriously impairs the right of the people to live in a corruption and crime free society which violates Articles 14 (right to equality) and 21 (right to life and liberty) of the citizens, added the petition.