CJI Ranjan Gogoi recuses himself from hearing plea challenging Nageswara Rao’s appointment as interim CBI chief

Ranjan Gogoi  

Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi on Monday recused himself from hearing a petition challenging the appointment of M. Nageswara Rao as interim CBI Director and ordered the plea to be placed before a Bench led by the number two Supreme Court judge, Justice A.K. Sikri, on January 24.

Justice Sikri himself was part of the high-power committee chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which ousted Alok Verma as CBI Director and paved the way for the appointment of Mr. Rao as interim Director. The vote of Justice Sikri, who went in place of Chief Justice Gogoi as his nominee, had proved to be the decisive one against Mr. Verma. During the court hearing, the Chief Justice explained that it would not be possible for him to hear the case as there is a meeting of the high-power committee scheduled for January 24. This committee would recommend a name for CBI Director from a panel. Chief Justice Gogoi would be attending the meeting as member.

The Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946, mandates that the Centre appoint the CBI Director on the recommendation of a committee chaired by the Prime Minister and comprising the Leader of the Opposition, the CJI or his nominee Supreme Court judge.

CJI Ranjan Gogoi recuses himself from hearing plea challenging Nageswara Rao’s appointment as interim CBI chief

Chief Justice Gogoi, however, had heard a petition filed by Mr. Verma against the latter’s ‘overnight’ divestment from office on October 23-24 last year even though the CJI was a member of the high-power committee. Chief Justice Gogoi had authored the judgment for the Bench allowing Mr. Verma to return to office and directed the competent authority to organise a meeting of the committee within a week to decide Mr. Verma’s divestment. It was in this meeting that Justice Sikri had represented Chief Justice Gogoi.

The petition against the appointment of Mr. Rao, filed jointly by NGO Common Cause and activist Anjali Bhardwaj, submitted that the government had “completely bypassed” the statutory requirement to consult the high-power selection committee of the Prime Minister, Opposition Leader and the Chief Justice of India before appointing Mr. Rao.

It claimed that the January 10 order of the government handing over the charge and work of the CBI Director to Mr. Rao was “illegal”.

“The Government of India has attempted to stifle the independence of the institution of the CBI by appointing the Director of the CBI in an arbitrary and illegal manner,” the petition, represented by advocate Prashant Bhushan, contended.

Besides, it argued that Mr. Rao’s earlier appointment as interim CBI Director following the ouster of Alok Verma on October 23 was quashed by the Supreme Court in a judgment on January 8. Yet the January 10 order has stated that the Appointment Committee of the Cabinet approved the appointment of Mr. Rao “as per the earlier arrangement”.

Lack of transparency in the appointment of the CBI Director allows the government to exercise undue influence in the appointment process especially at the stage of short-listing of candidates, the petition said.

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Printable version | Apr 18, 2021 3:27:53 PM |

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