Hours after the Select Committee report on the pending Lokpal Bill was tabled in the Rajya Sabha, the Bharatiya Janata Party sparked off a controversy over the appointment of the new CBI Director, Ranjit Sinha.
It said that since the panel had unanimously approved a collegium system to pick the CBI chief, the government should have held back Mr. Sinha’s appointment pending parliamentary approval of the Lokpal Bill.
However, several Ministers and ruling party members questioned the BJP’s logic and argued that the government could not be expected to put on hold a key appointment.
The contentious Lokpal Bill is a still long way from being passed. The government chose to refer the Bill as approved by the Lok Sabha to a Rajya Sabha Select Committee as it could not muster the numbers to see it through in the Upper House.
In a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Leaders of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley urged him to put on hold the appointment of the CBI chief till the collegium system became a law.
“This is a matter on record that hours before this recommendation [of the Select Committee] was tabled on the floor of the Rajya Sabha, the government had chosen to appoint a CBI Director for a period of two years... We must record our strong disappointment and disapproval of this act of the government,” the letter said.
The leaders contended that the “manner” in which the government made this appointment — ahead of the tabling of this recommendation in Rajya Sabha — indicated that it wanted to pre-empt the committee.
“We would request you to revisit this matter and keep this appointment in abeyance till such time this recommendation becomes law of the land. Hopefully this can happen in the next few days,” Ms. Swaraj and Mr. Jaitley said.
But Law Minister Ashwani Kumar said: “There is no impropriety involved. Till such time that the report of the select committee is enacted into law after debate in Parliament and due processes, the government and the Prime Minister have full right to make appointment to the sensitive post [of CBI Director]. It cannot be left vacant.”
Minister of State for Personnel V. Narayanasamy maintained that the appointment of the new CBI chief was done in a “fair manner” following the “due process” and that the Prime Minister has got the authority to decide on one name.
Speaking on the sidelines of a CBI function, Mr. Narayanasamy said Mr. Sinha was the senior-most officer among the three names suggested by the Central Vigilance Commissioner.
“...The Prime Minister decided the name of Ranjit Sinha in a fair manner following the due process. The CVC has recommended three names [and] the Prime Minister has the authority to decide one name. Where is the question of unfairness in this,” Mr. Narayanasamy asked.
“Maybe they have proposed a new mechanism. That’s not part of the law today. There is no Act in Parliament today. There is no notification of an Act today. The law as it exists, the government must function in accordance with that law. And, that’s how we move forward,” he maintained.
He said the CVC had mulled over the names discussed and then finalised three names — Ranjit Sinha; Sharad Sinha, Director, National Investigation Agency; and Atul Gupta, Director General, Uttar Pradesh.