Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana’s opinion in the high-level committee to avoid officers with less than six months left to retire for appointment as CBI Director is a simple “statement of law”. It was not a comment on the professional prowess of those who now find themselves outside the zone of consideration.
Two senior IPS officers, Y.C. Modi and Rakesh Asthana, are out of contention for the post. Mr. Modi retires in May. Mr. Asthana in July.
The CJI was clear during the meeting chaired by the Prime Minister and attended by Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, leader of largest Opposition party, on Monday that the committee’s selection of officers should be able to withstand the “scrutiny of law in the future”.
For this, officers with a “few days left” in service should not be considered. In this context, 10 of the senior most officers of the 1984 batch, scheduled to retire soon, were not considered. The six-month minimum residual tenure rule was introduced by the Supreme Court in a March 13, 2019 order. Though the order in the Prakash Singh case pertained to the appointment of DGPs, it was extended to CBI Director too.
The order, pronounced by a three-judge Bench led by then Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, had clarified that the “recommendation for appointment to the post of Director General of Police by the Union Public Service Commission and preparation of panel should be purely on the basis of merit from officers who have a minimum residual tenure of six months, that is, officers who have at least six months of service prior to retirement”.
The apex court had indicated the possibility that officers with only a few days of service may be in an insecure state of mind. In the Prakash Singh case, the Supreme Court had stressed the point that appointment of DGPs “should be purely on the basis of merit and to insulate the office from all kinds of influences and pressures”.
As on date, the CBI has jurisdiction to investigate offences pertaining to 69 Central laws, 18 State Acts and 231 offences in the IPC. The Director is to hold the post for not less than two years as held by the Vineet Narain judgment of 1998. He/she may not be transferred except with the previous consent of the high-level committee. The CJI had also studied a Supreme Court judgment, Union of India versus C. Dinakar, reported in 2004, in the context of the appointment process. In this, the apex court had held that “ordinarily IPS officers of the senior most four batches in service on the date of retirement of CBI Director, irrespective of their empanelment, shall be eligible for consideration for appointment to the post of CBI Director”.