NGO Common Cause on Thursday filed a petition in the Supreme Court, calling the appointment of Indian Police Service officer Rakesh Asthana as the special director of the Central Bureau of Investigation illegal. Asthana was appointed to the post on October 22.

The petition alleges that Asthana’s appointment violated the principles of “impeccable integrity” and “institutional integrity”. It highlighted that as per the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, the Centre must appoint the CBI special director on the recommendation of a committee comprising the Central Vigilance Commissioner, vigilance commissioners, the home secretary and the personnel secretary, in consultation with the CBI director.

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.

The NGO’s plea also said that CBI Director Alok Verma had objected to Asthana’s appointment because his name figured in a corruption case the agency was investigating. It relies on a report by The Hindu from October 26, which quoted Chief Vigilance Commissioner KV Chowdary as saying that Verma was opposed to Asthana’s elevation.

Asthana’s name had surfaced in a diary obtained by the CBI from the premises of Gujarat-based Sterling Biotech, which suggested that he had accepted bribes from the company. Despite this, the plea contends, the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet, comprising Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh, approved Asthana’s appointment.