The Supreme Court on Friday issued a notice to the Centre, seeking an explanation on its appointment of Gujarat cadre IPS officer Rakesh Asthana as the interim director of the Central Bureau of Investigation. The government has been ordered to submit its response before the top court on December 15.

NGO Common Cause had filed a petition, accusing the Centre of taking “mala fide, arbitrary and illegal” steps to give Asthana charge of the CBI. The organisation had claimed that the government had deliberately not called for a meeting of the collegium, which appoints the agency’s head, despite knowing that Anil Sinha’s term as CBI director ended on December 2. The selection committee includes the prime minister, the leader of the largest Opposition party in the Lok Sabha and the chief justice of India.

Asthana, who was the additional director of the agency, was promoted after the transfer of CBI Special Director RK Dutta – a top contender for the post – to the Home Ministry as special secretary, which is a new new addition to the ministry. The NGO had 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 was 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. He was involved in the investigation of the 2002 Godhra riots.