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The Centre’s response came after the Supreme Court questioned why the agency had not got a
full-time director yet after Alok Verma’s sacking on January 10

With the selection committee mandated for appointing the CBI director scheduled to meet on Friday (February 1) evening, the Supreme Court has been informed by the Centre that the much-anticipated announcement on the premier investigation agency’s new chief is expected soon.

The Centre’s response to the Supreme Court came after a bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Naveen Sinha stressed that the post of CBI director is a very crucial one and pointed out that the appointment of sacked chief Alok Verma’s successor should have been made by now.

It may be recalled that Alok Verma had been sacked as CBI director on January 10 by a controversial 2:1 majority decision of the selection committee that appoints the agency’s chief – Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Supreme Court’s Justice AK Sikri (nominated to the panel by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi) had endorsed Verma’s dismissal while the third member, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge had dissented). Following Verma’s ouster, M Nageswara Rao returned as the agency’s interim chief while the selection committee comprising PM Modi, Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Kharge has held two rounds of discussions on Verma’s possible successor.

Attorney General (AG) K K Venugopal informed the bench led by Justice Mishra that the selection committee will hold a meeting today (Friday) to select a new CBI chief. The AG also placed the minutes of the meetings of the high-powered committee held earlier this month before the court.

The AG also informed the court that the Centre had taken the approval of the committee before appointing IPS officer M Nageswara Rao as the interim CBI director. The apex court scheduled the matter for hearing on February 6. The bench was hearing a petition of NGO Common Cause challenging the appointment of Rao as interim CBI Director.

The court told the AG that the new appointment must “trace the movements of files” during the period when former CBI chief Alok Verma was reinstated to the post for two days following a verdict by the Supreme Court which quashed the Centre and Central Vigilance Commission’s October 23 decision on sending Verma on leave after divesting him of his responsibilities.

The NGO’s counsel told the bench that the apex court must also look into the aspect of transparency in the process of appointing the CBI director.

“You want an immediate appointment. Let us stop there. Let the appointment be made first. If you have any grievance that the process is not followed and transparency was not there then you can challenge it later,” the bench told the NGO’s counsel. The court noted that Alok Verma’s decisions, taken during the brief period of his reinstatement, should be scrutinized by the new director.

The top court, on Thursday, had set up a fresh bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra to hear a petition challenging the Centre’s decision to appoint Rao as interim CBI. Earlier, Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice AK Sikri and Justice NV Ramana had all recused from hearing the petition citing different reasons.

—India Legal Bureau

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