The Centre on Friday rubbished before the Supreme Court the claim that services of senior IPS officer R K Dutta, who was overseeing probes in 2G and coal scams, was curtailed at CBI in a “malafide” manner and asserted that provisions governing the probe agency were complied with.
The high-power committee, comprising the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice of India and the Leader of Opposition (LoP), would meet by December end to select the CBI director, the Centre told a bench headed by Justice Kurian Joseph when it questioned the government as to why the panel has not met so far.
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Centre, was critical of the arguments of lawyer Prashant Bhushan, representing NGO ‘Common Cause’, that there was malafide in shunting out Dutta from CBI.
“This is not a service matter. Dutta is not before the court. Moreover, he has been transferred to a very sensitive post in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA),” he said, adding that the power of transfer and posting cannot be decided by a petitioner in a PIL.
Responding to a query from the bench, also comprising Justice R F Nariman, Rohatgi said that while curtailing the services of Dutta, the section 4 (c) of the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act, 1946, which deals with procedure of appointment, extension and curtailment of services of senior officers in CBI, has been complied with.
He also said that Dutta, who was the senior-most officer after the CBI director, did not have requisite number of years of service left to be considered for the top post in the agency.
On the issue of appointing Gujarat cadre IPS officer Rakesh Asthana as the interim CBI Director, the Attorney General said that the high-powered committee could not meet due to various pre-occupations of the dignitaries, including the Prime Minister.
Responding to a query that as to why a junior officer was considered for the post of interim Director, Rohatgi said that it is wrong to say that Asthana does not deserve and moreover, the process to select the director has already commenced as the names have been short-listed which would be considered by the committee.
Bhushan said, “I am alleging malafide. Dutta, who was the senior-most officer after the CBI director and had 15 years of experience in the probe agency in dealing anti-corruption cases, has been shifted to MHA by creating a special department, related to anti-terror operations.”
This transfer was done two days before the retirement of CBI director, he alleged.
Dutta has been sent to a unit which is very sensitive and there he has been tasked to coordinate with all agencies to effectively deal with terror threats and cases, Rohatgi said adding, “We have upgraded his salary. His juniors at CBI were getting more than him. It is for the government to decide which officer will serve where. It is not the business of the petitioner.”
Rohatgi opposed the submission of Bhushan that the Centre be directed to ensure meeting of the high-powered committee. “How can a court ask the committee of the PM, CJI and LoP to meet on a particular date,” he said.
The court then fixed the matter filed by the NGO for further hearing on January 17 next year and asked Bhushan to file response to the reply of the Centre in the case.