All issues relating to the selection of the new chief of the Central Bureau of Investigation will be clear very soon, the Supreme Court was informed today.
A high-powered committee, comprising the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice of India and the Leader of Opposition, has met yesterday to decide the name of the new CBI Director, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Centre, told a bench comprising Justices Kurian Joseph and A M Khanwilkar.
The bench deferred the hearing on a related PIL till January 20 after Rohatgi submitted that the minutes of the meeting “are still being drawn up” as the high-powered panel has deliberated on the short-listed names yesterday and things would be clear by Friday.
The court, on December 16 last year, had asked the government as to why the panel has not met so far. The Attorney General had then responded by saying that the meeting would take place soon.
The Centre had then rubbished the claim that services of senior IPS officer R K Dutta, who was overseeing probe in 2G and coal scams, was curtailed in a “malafide” manner and asserted that provisions governing the probe agency had been complied with.
Rohatgi had also opposed the contention of lawyer Prashant Bhushan, representing NGO ‘Common Cause’, that there was malafide in shunting out Dutta from CBI and appointing Gujarat cadre IPS officer Rakesh Asthana as the interim Director.
“This is not a service matter. Dutta is not before the court. Moreover, he has been transferred to a very sensitive post in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA),” he had said, adding that the power of transfer and posting cannot be decided by a petitioner in a PIL.
The Attorney General had also said that while curtailing the services of Dutta, section 4(c) of the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act, 1946, which deals with procedure of appointment, extension and curtailment of services of senior officers in CBI, has been complied with.
He had also said that Dutta, who was the senior-most officer after the CBI director, did not have requisite number of years of service left to be considered for the top post in the agency.
The Attorney General had told the court on December 16 that the high-powered committee could not meet due to pre-occupations of the dignitaries, including the Prime Minister.
The apex court had on December 9 sought the Centre’s response on the plea challenging the appointment of Rakesh Asthana as the interim director of CBI after shifting of Dutta by curtailing his tenure in the agency.
The petition had alleged that the Centre took a series of steps in a “completely mala fide, arbitrary and illegal manner to ensure that Asthana was given the charge of CBI director”.
Asthana, an IPS officer of 1984-batch, was elevated as CBI’s Additional Director on December 2 when its Special Director R K Dutta, who was reportedly among the frontrunners for the top post, was shifted to the Ministry of Home Affairs as Special Secretary.
The plea had claimed that the government did not convene a meeting of the selection committee, even though it was fully aware that Anil Sinha was going to demit office of CBI Director on December 2.
It alleged that the government had “prematurely curtailed” Dutta’s tenure and transferred him to MHA on November 30 just two days before Sinha was slated to demit office.