Supreme Court on Friday sought the Centre’s response on a plea challenging the appointment of Rakesh Asthana as the interim director of CBI after allegedly shifting out a senior officer who was supervising high profile cases of 2G spectrum and coal scams, by curtailing his tenure.
“Why was senior-most officer R K Dutta, supervising high profile 2G and coal scam cases, shifted out of agency without the nod of this court,” a bench of Justices Kurian Joseph and R F Nariman said while issuing notice to the government.
“You have to reply on two questions, as to why Dutta was shifted out of CBI by curtailing his tenure and how the CBI’s interim director was appointed,” the bench said.
Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said a meeting of the selection committee to appoint CBI director will be convened soon and letters have been issued to Chief Justice of India and leader of largest opposition party in Parliament.
The three-member selection committee to appoint CBI director comprises the Prime Minister, the leader of the largest opposition party and the Chief Justice of India.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for petitioner NGO Common Cause, claimed that Dutta was shifted out of CBI by curtailing his tenure to ensure that Asthana, a senior Gujarat cadre offier, was made the interim chief of the probe agency.
“They are trying to destroy CBI,” Bhushan alleged after Mehta sought some time to file the reply, and urged the court not to give so much time to the government.
Mehta argued that Asthana has been serving the agency for long and also handled several high profile cases. The court, however, asked Mehta to file reply to the petition within a week and posted the matter for hearing on December 16.
The petition, filed by the NGO, alleged that the Centre took a series of steps in a “completely mala fide, arbitrary and illegal manner to ensure that Asthana was given the charge of CBI director”.
Asthana, an IPS officer of 1984-batch, was elevated as CBI’s Additional Director on December 2 when its Special Director R K Dutta, who was reportedly among the frontrunners for the top post, was shifted to the Ministry of Home Affairs as a Special Secretary.
The plea has claimed that the government did not convene a meeting of the selection committee, even though it was fully aware that Anil Sinha was going to demit the office of CBI director on December 2.
It alleged that the government had “prematurely curtailed” Dutta’s tenure and transferred him to MHA on November 30 just two days before Sinha was slated to demit office.