The Central Bureau of Investigation has been working under interim director M Nageswara Rao after Alok Verma was removed as its chief on charges of corruption and dereliction of duty by the high-powered committee headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
On Thursday, the matter was posted before a bench of Justices Ramana, Mohan M Shantanagoudar and Indira Banerjee. But Justice Ramana recused, citing the reasons.
The petitioners claimed that the order issued to appoint Rao after then CBI director Verma decided to superannuate was as “illegal, arbitrary, mala fide” and in violation of the provisions of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act and the apex court’s judgment of January 8 wherein Verma was directed to be reinstated and appointment of Rao as interim chief made on October 23 was quashed.
The petitioners sought the issuance of directions for appointment of a director, CBI as per the procedure established by law and for ensuring transparency in the process of short-listing, selection and appointment of the head of the investigating agency.
The appointment of the CBI director is made by the panel of Prime Minister, CJI and Leader of Opposition.
“It appears that this particular committee has been completely bypassed by the Union government which has arbitrarily and without any jurisdiction appointed Rao as interim director, CBI on January 10. The appointment of Rao as interim CBI director was apparently not made on the basis of recommendations of the high powered selection committee,” it said.
Justice NV Ramana on Thursday became the third Supreme Court judge to recuse himself from hearing a petition challenging the appointment of M Nageshwar Rao as the interim director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
Justice Ramana has sought transparency in the process of short-listing, selection and appointment of the CBI director.
While recusing himself from hearing the matter, Justice Ramana said Rao is from his home state. “Nageswara Rao is from my home state and I have attended his daughter’s wedding,” Justice Ramana said.
Earlier, Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice AK Sikri had recused themselves from hearing the same matter.
Earlier The probe agency filed a first information report (FIR) against Asthana in October last year. On the intervening night of October 23 and 24, the government divested both of their powers. Rao took charge as the interim director for the first time on the intervening night of October 23 and 24.
Verma challenged the government order in the top court and it conditionally reinstated him as the CBI chief on January 8, saying that only the selection panel could remove him. The panel decided by a majority decision of 2-1 to remove Verma on January 10.
The panel, which also comprises leader of the largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge of Congress, and SC Judge Sikri had however removed Verma inspite of Kharge stiff opposition as the chief within a few days of the verdict.
Rao, who was appointed as interim chief of the premier investigation agency in October when Verma and his deputy were sent on leave, was re-appointed as the interim chief of the agency. Kharge claimed re-appointed as the interim chief been done with out panel recommendations
The modi government meanwhile has initiated the process of looking for Verma’s successor.