CJI recuses from hearing plea challenging appointment of acting CBI chief

New Delhi: Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi on Monday recused himself from hearing a plea by NGO Common Cause challenging the appointment of M. Nageswara Rao as the interim Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) after the ouster of Alok Verma.

As the plea by Common Cause came up for hearing before a bench headed by CJI Gogoi, he recused from hearing the matter saying he would be participating in the Selection Committee to pick a new regular head of the investigating agency.

The Chief Justice said it would be heard by a bench headed by Justice A.K. Sikri on January 24.

The selection panel comprises the Prime Minister, leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha and the Chief Justice. Thus its members are Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge and CJI Ranjan Gogoi.

The meeting of the Selection Committee is set for January 24.

Seeking the quashing of the January 10 decision to appoint Rao as acting head, the NGO has contended that it was “illegal, arbitrary, malafide and in violation of the Delhi Police Special Establishment (DPSE) Act” and the judgement of the apex court in the Alok Verma and Vineet Narain cases.

It has sought laying down of a specific mechanisms to ensure transparency in the appointment process to the investigation agency.

Meanwhile, Deputy Superintendents of Police A.K. Bassi on Monday moved the top court challenging the January 11 order transferring him to Port Blair.

Contending that his transfer was “vitiated by mala fide and non-application of mind”, Bassi said that his transfer order was violative of the top court’s direction issued on January 8 in former CBI Director Alok Verma’s case.

Asserting that the transfer order was intended to “vicitimise” him and “unfairly prejudice the investigation against (former Special Director) Rakesh Asthana”, Bassi contended that the transfer order was passed by interim Director Naeswara Rao who is “not competent to pass such orders”.

He said that a regular CBI Director alone was competent to issue transfer orders.

After the removal of former Alok Verma as the head of the investigating agency on January 10, Additional Director Nageswara Rao was appointed as interim Director who upon taking the charge nullified all the transfer orders issued by Verma after he was reinstated by the top court on January 8.

Earlier too, on October 24 when Rao was appointed as interim Director, he had transferred 13 CBI officials including Joint Director (Policy) A.K. Sharma, Deputy Inspectors General M.K. Sinha, Anish Prasad, K.R. Chaurasia and Tarun Gauba, Additional Superintendent of Police S.S. Gurm and Deputy Superintendents of Police A.K. Bassi and Ashwani Kumar.

These orders were revoked by Verma after he was reinstated by the top court on January 8.