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CBI turns over a new leaf

CBI turns over a new leaf

After the 22-day long uncertainty, the Selection Committee finally appointed a new Director for the nation's premier investigation agency. Former Madhya Pradesh DGP Rishi Kumar Shukla was picked out of a 5-name shortlist in a 2:1 majority decision made by the PM-led committee. Kharge's dissent over the committee's preference was notable since he wrote to the Prime Minister, citing how the appropriate criteria matched the other names better than Shukla. His concern, primarily, was Shukla's lack of experience in anti-corruption cases. Though accredited for 117 months of investigative experience, drawing nil on the anti-corruption head clearly irked Kharge. In his letter, Kharge referred to the Supreme Court's Vineet Narain judgment and Delhi Special Police Establishment Act signifying the criteria – seniority, integrity, and experience in the field of anti-corruption cases – as decisive factors for the appointment. Kharge's disclosure also cites a comparatively lesser number of investigative experience as well but his discourse had a strong voice of dissent only because this is an anti-corruption agency. Logically, a person well versed with anti-corruption experience is better equipped to lead CBI. S Javed Ahmad, in Kharge's opinion, was better suited for the post which the committee conferred to Shukla, reportedly for his rather 'clean' image. While it is true that over the past months, CBI's integrity had been questioned over the row between its top two cops but overlooking experience for the image is rather audacious in terms of such critical appointments. The impasse had been publicly scrutinised with the top two alleging graft charges against each other. The infighting culminated in both being ousted from the premier agency in January, leaving M Nageshwar Rao at the helm for the interim period. Supreme Court had asked the committee to expedite the appointment, expressing concern over the interim management of CBI. Shukla's appointment comes after two meetings of the Selection Committee, and even then it is rather questionable. In Kharge's letter, the other shortlisted candidates for the post had higher overall experience. A 1983-batch IPS officer of the Madhya Pradesh cadre, Shukla served as the DGP of MP during CM Shivraj Chauhan's tenure before being transferred by the Kamal Nath government to serve as the Chairman of MP Police Housing Commission. Shukla's reputation has not been questioned in the dissent. Under his leadership, Madhya Pradesh Police had narrowed down in rape cases of minors. He also holds experience in Intelligence, serving as Additional DGP for three years. Unanimously shortlisting Shukla for a 5-name final list from 80 candidates for the post certainly makes him eligible for the same and that alone opposes Kharge's dissent. However, the norms cited by him have a strong force of opposition at the same time which will create two sets of believers. As asserted by Kharge, appointment to such a critical post cannot withstand such dilution in the criteria. His words point out to the quality that may be sacrificed for CBI is exclusively responsible for handling corruption. The past months had divided the agency and Shukla has the key role of pulling the agency out from the sphere of questionable credibility, cited by many as CBI's nadir and spring it forward. Shukla, known as the no-nonsense officer, will be key to holding together the agency while it returns to its former glory. Following the unceremonious exit of its former Director Alok Verma, CBI is set to turn over a new leaf when Shukla takes office. Given CBI's active pursuit of several cases, the appointment, nevertheless contentious, augurs well for the institution. While Shukla's clean record made him get the top post, it should not be sidelined that even Alok Verma was brought in with the same vigor and coincidentally, Kharge had expressed dissent then as well. So the good reputation card certainly does not ensure the robust performance from the committee may have envisaged during the selection process. It is, therefore, important that Shukla, who like everyone else would have closely followed the CBI impasse, leads the agency, which is in a sensitive stage, with the integrity that has got him here. CBI has a huge responsibility on its shoulder which Shukla will burden for the two years and there is a lot of expectations from the incumbent as matters stand.

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