SC seeks Centre's response on plea for appointment of regular CBI director

Central Bureau of Investigation HQ, in New Delhi.   | Photo Credit: PTI

The Supreme Court on Friday asked the government to respond to a writ petition seeking the appointment of a regular CBI Director through the high-power selection committee comprising the Prime Minister, Chief Justice of India and Leader of Opposition.

A Bench of Justices L. Nageswara Rao and S. Ravindra Bhat issued notice to the Centre on the plea filed by an NGO, Common Cause, represented by advocate Prashant Bhushan.

Mr. Bhushan sought an early hearing, preferably next week, saying the functioning of the agency is suffering without a regular Director. The court, however, scheduled the case after two weeks. This was done to avoid the prospect of the government seeking an adjournment to file its reply.

During the short hearing, Justice Rao queried in passing whether the law specifically barred the appointment of an interim Director but quickly decided to wait for the government’s response.

“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,” Common Cause said in its petition.

It pointed out that instead of a regular appointment, the government appointed Praveen Sinha on February 3 as an “interim/acting CBI Director”.

The petition said such an interim appointment through an executive order was not envisaged in the statutory scheme of the 1946 Act. The CBI Director is a sensitive post. The official is the final authority in the organisation in several sensitive investigations.

The premier investigative agency should function independently beyond the pale of the Executive or political powers. The NGO said this was exactly why a high-powered committee selects the CBI Director.

The petition also highlighted the “determined efforts” of the Supreme Court in the past to “enhance the functional autonomy of the CBI and limit the extent of executive discretion in the matter of appointment of this key functionary”.

It said the court should direct the introduction of a mechanism to ensure that the process of selection of the CBI Director is completed one or two months before the retirement of the incumbent.

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Printable version | Jun 20, 2021 10:26:08 AM |

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