An NGO has filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging the appointment of Gujarat-cadre IPS officer Rakesh Asthana as the interim chairman of the Central Bureau of Investigation. “The government 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,” said the petition filed by NGO Common Cause through senior advocate Prashant Bhushan.
The plea further accused the Centre of not convening a meeting of the collegium, which appoints the CBI chief, in “deliberate dereliction, despite knowing that Anil Sinha’s term as the agency’s director ended on December 2,” The Indian Express reported. The committee comprises the prime minister as its head, the leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and the chief justice of India.
Asthana’s promotion followed the transfer of CBI Special Director RK Dutta, who was a top contender for the post, to the Home Ministry as special secretary, which is a new new addition to the ministry. The NGO has alleged that the Centre had “prematurely curtailed” Dutta’s term at the CBI and transferred him to the ministry two days before Sinha was scheduled to retire.
This is reportedly the first time in ten years that the government has failed to make a permanent appointment to lead the agency. Asthana is believed to have close ties with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Shah, and was involved in the investigation of the 2002 Godhra riots.