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Can’t outgoing CBI chief continue in exceptional circumstances, asks Supreme Court

Current CBI Director Subodh Kumar Jaiswal.   | Photo Credit: PTI

The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Union Government to respond whether it can, in “exceptional circumstances”, continue with the outgoing Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Director rather than appointing an “Acting” chief.

A Bench led by Justice L. Nageswara Rao asked the Government, represented by Attorney General K.K. Venugopal, that instead of an interim or an ‘Acting’ Director, the premier investigating agency could continue with the incumbent until the high-powered selection committee comprising the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice of India and the Leader of the Opposition zeroed in on the next regular appointment.

NGO’s plea

The suggestion came while hearing a petition filed by NGO Common Cause, represented by advocate Prashant Bhushan, about how the law does not permit the Government to issue executive orders on its own, appointing interim CBI Directors.

Mr. Bhushan said the government had done it thrice since 2017. Such manoeuvres would hamper the functional autonomy of the elite probe agency that investigated several sensitive cases in the country.

“In exceptional circumstances, can the CBI Director continue till a new Director is appointed?” Justice Rao asked the top law officer on Wednesday.

Mr. Venugopal sought time to reply. The court posted the case after the Diwali holidays.

In March 2021, the court first issued notice in the case. In that hearing, Justice Rao queried in passing whether the law specifically barred the appointment of an interim Director.

“The government has failed to appoint the Director of the CBI as per Section 4A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act of 1946 on the expiry of the term of the last incumbent, Rishi Kumar Shukla, on February 2, 2021,” NGO Common Cause said in its petition, which was filed in the wake of the Centre’s February 3 appointment of Praveen Sinha as the “interim/acting CBI Director”.

S.K. Jaiswal is the current CBI Director.

The petition had said that an interim appointment through an executive order was not envisaged in the statutory scheme of the 1946 Act.

The CBI Director was a sensitive post. He was the final authority in the organisation in several sensitive investigations. The agency should function independently outside the pale of the Executive or political powers, said the petition.


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Printable version | Dec 2, 2021 7:25:50 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/cant-outgoing-cbi-chief-continue-in-exceptional-circumstances-asks-supreme-court/article37090357.ece

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