The Bharatiya Janata Party’s objection to the appointment of Ranjit Sinha as Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is a peevish attempt to score a political point over the government. It is difficult to accept the party’s stand that the government should not have made the appointment at a time when the Rajya Sabha Select Committee’s Report on the Lokpal Bill — which, inter alia, suggests a mechanism by which the CBI Director is appointed by a collegium rather than by the government — had just been tabled and was pending consideration by Parliament. For one thing, the government was following existing law and procedure while filling up a post that was due to fall vacant on November 30: it had made the appointment based on a recommendation made by the Central Vigilance Commission, which shortlisted three names. Secondly, the Select Committee’s report is still some way from being considered, accepted and incorporated in the form of suitable amendments to the Lokpal Bill and taken up in Parliament. The objection may have had some substance had it been rooted in some specific opposition to the suitability of Mr. Sinha, but to argue that the government should wait for a new procedure to be established by law in future beats logic. It is doubtful if the appointment of a key position can be put on hold for an indefinite period until a set of recommendations on an issue that has divided the polity and has been the subject of acrimonious debate over the last two years is ultimately accepted and adopted by the legislature.

The Lokpal Bill, as passed by the Lok Sabha, envisages appointment of the CBI Director by the Central government on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and Chief Justice of India or a Judge of the Supreme Court. The Select Committee’s recommendation only modifies this a little by specifying appointment by a collegium comprising the same three authorities. It is possible to argue that the government could have awaited the bill’s enactment into law, as it has already agreed, in substance, to change the present system. But given recent parliamentary experience, wherein conduct of proceedings is only a rare exception to disruption and paralysis, it is doubtful if any government will wait for the Select Committee report to evolve into law. Perhaps, the government’s past conduct — when it imposed a controversial selection for the post of Central Vigilance Commissioner — breeds scepticism in the opposition ranks. As does the rather opaque functioning of the CBI in cases involving politicians. A remedy has to be found for this; but it will take more than a collegium-driven selection process for the Director to rid the agency of that fatal flaw.

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