New Delhi: Justice N.V Ramana on Thursday recused himself from hearing a challenge to the appointment of M. Nageswara Rao as interim director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
He is the third judge to have recused from hearing the case after Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice A.K. Sikri.
Rao was made to continue as interim director after former CBI director Alok Verma was removed by the high-power selection panel headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and was assigned the post of director-general of fire services, civil defence and home guards on 10 January. Subsequently, Verma resigned from the Indian Police Service (IPS).
Within hours of resuming as interim CBI director, Rao reversed all transfer orders issued by Verma earlier.
The plea by non-government organization (NGO) Common Cause
sought the quashing of the order of 10 January and argued that Rao’s appointment as interim director was not made on the basis of recommendations of the high-power selection panel, and deemed it to be “illegal, arbitrary, mala fide and in violation of the provisions of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act (DSPE Act)".
“Rao’s appointment as interim CBI director was apparently not made on the basis of recommendations of the high-power selection committee. It appears that this particular committee has been completely bypassed by the Centre, which has arbitrarily and without any jurisdiction appointed Rao," the plea added.
The high-power selection committee comprises the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the Chief Justice of India, or a Supreme Court judge nominated by him.
The plea also sought the apex court’s direction to the Centre to ensure all records of deliberations and rational criteria related to shortlisting and selection of the director of the CBI are made available to citizens under provisions of the Right to Information Act, 2005.
Similar disclosure was sought on the website, mandating minutes of meetings of the screening/search committee for the CBI director’s appointment.
On 8 January, a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi had set aside the government’s order of 23 October divesting Verma of his powers and appointing CBI joint director Rao as interim chief. Verma was reinstated as CBI director, but was barred from taking any fresh policy decisions till the high-power committee reviewed the Central Vigilance Commission’s findings against him.
The panel to select the new CBI chief is likely to meet on Friday.
Govt rejects Verma’s resignation
The home ministry on Thursday rejected the resignation of former Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) director Alok Verma, more than two weeks after he refused to take charge as director general of fire services and home guards.
The ministry asked Verma to join the services or face penal action, including those affecting pension benefits.
Shaswati Das contributed to this story