New Delhi: Another Supreme Court judge, Justice NV Ramana on Thursday recused from hearing a plea of NGO Common Cause against M Nageswara Rao’s appointment as interim Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
Justice Ramana is the third judge who has recused from hearing the case after Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice AK Sikri.
The petition filed by NGO Common Cause and social activist Anjali Bhardwaj, to secure “independence and autonomy” of the CBI, sought quashing of the order dated January 10 by which the charge and duties of the CBI Director Alok Verma have been handed over to Nageswara Rao as an interim measure. The petition has sought transparency in the process of short-listing, selection and appointment of the CBI Director.
The petitioners claim that the lack of transparency in the appointment of the CBI Director allows the government to exercise “undue influence in the appointment process”, especially at the stage of short-listing of candidates.
After the Selection Committee, comprising Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Justice AK Sikri and Congress leader in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, removed Alok Verma as CBI director, Nageswara Rao was again appointed interim CBI Director.
“Lack of transparency prevents any public scrutiny of the appointment process,” added the plea.
The plea filed through advocate Prashant Bhushan, said the order of appointing Rao as interim director of CBI was “illegal, arbitrary, malafide” and in violation of the provisions of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act (DSPE Act). The DSPE Act provides for the constitution of the CBI and lays down the procedure for the appointment of the CBI director.
The DSPE Act as amended by the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 provides for the appointment of the CBI director by a high powered selection committee which does not have a preponderance of the government and its representatives. The committee consists of the Prime Minister, the Leader of Opposition and the Chief Justice of India or any Judge of Supreme Court nominated by him.
“It appears that this particular committee has been completely bypassed by the Union of India which has arbitrarily and without any jurisdiction appointed Nageswara Rao as interim Director, CBI on January 10. The appointment of Nageswara Rao as interim CBI Director was apparently not made on the basis of recommendations of the high powered selection committee,” the petition added.
It said that the January 10 order states that the Appointment Committee of the Cabinet has approved the appointment of Rao “as per the earlier arrangement”.
This earlier arrangement – October 23, 2018 order making Rao interim CBI Director, had been quashed by the Supreme Court by its January 8 order as it was made in violation of the procedure for appointment of CBI Director as defined in the DSPE Act, said the petition.
“However, the government still invoked its earlier order which had been quashed, to once again make Nageswara Rao interim Director of the CBI even though it is not the competent authority and does not have any powers to make the appointment, without following the due process laid down in the DSPE Act, that is, appointment based on recommendations made by the high powered selection committee,” added the petition.
Alok Verma has refused to take up his new posting – DG, Fire Services, Civil Defence and Home Guards. After removal of Verma as CBI Director, Rao was given charge of interim CBI Director of the central agency.