SC Declines To Interfere In Nageswar Rao’s Appointment As CBI Interim Chief

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The Bench of the Supreme Court of Justices Arun Mishra and Naveen Sinha today dismissed the petition filed by Common Cause and RTI activist Anjali Bharadwaj calling into question M Nageswar Rao’s appointment as interim CBI director.

No Requirement Of Interference

The bench said there was no need for interference as full – time CBI director has already been appointed. The bench also declined to accept the petitioner’s prayer for directions to bring more transparency to the appointment process. The case went through a dramatic journey with three judges, including CJI Gogoi, recusing them from hearing it before reaching the bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra.

Appointment Of Directors

On January 24, CJI Gogoi rejected the statement that he was going to be part of the High Powered Committee to select the new CBI Director. The matter was next assigned to the bench headed by Justice A K Sikri, who recused on January 24, citing that he had participated in the Committee meeting, which had removed Alok Verma as CBI Director, leading to Nageswar Rao’s appointment as interim chief. The case was then assigned to the next senior judge, Justice N V Ramana, who also recused on January 31, saying that he had attended the wedding of the daughter of Nageshwar Rao before and that he was also familiar with his son – in – law.  After that, on February 2nd, the High Powered Committee appointed Rishi Kumar Shukla CBI Director. Then the bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra heard the matter.

Background Of Petition

The petition states that Nageshwar Rao’s appointment was not made as mandated by the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act on the basis of recommendations from the high – powered selection committee. The order of 10 January 2019 stated that Rao’s appointment was approved by the Cabinet Appointment Committee ‘ as per the previous arrangement. ‘ That earlier arrangement, however, i.e. The Supreme Court quashed the order of 23 October 2018 making him interim CBI Director on 8 January in the case of Alok Verma. The government, however, still invoked its earlier quashed order to make Nageshwar Rao Interim Director of the CBI, the petition contended.

Non-Transparent Process

RTI activist Anjali Bhardwaj is a PIL co-petitioner who also alleges that in the appointment of CBI Director, the government did not follow a transparent process. According to the petitioners, without the recommendations of a high – powered committee, the government can not charge the CBI Director. The government’s order to charge him with CBI Director is therefore illegal and, according to the petition, against the appointment procedure under Section 4A of the DSPE Act.

It states:

“India’s government has tried to stifle the independence of the CBI institution by arbitrarily and illegally appointing the CBI Director. Furthermore, the lack of transparency in the appointment process prevents any meaningful public scrutiny and allows the government to exercise undue influence in the appointment process, particularly at the shortlisting stage, thereby undermining the CBI institution.”

Directions For Specific Mechanism

In addition to seeking to quash the appointment of Rao, it also seeks directions for establishing specific mechanisms to ensure transparency in the appointment process of the CBI Director. The petition states that the government launched the process of appointing Director, CBI as Alok Verma’s tenure was scheduled to end on January 31, 2019. Anjali Bhardwaj applied for information on the appointment process under the RTI Act in December 2018. “The government responded to each of these RTI applications with the same summary response in an attempt to obfuscate and withhold information about the appointment process,” the petition says.

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