The Supreme Court on Monday told the government that interim appointments to the post of Central Bureau of Investigation director cannot go on, Live Law reported.
A bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and Vineet Saran was hearing a petition filed by non-governmental organisation Common Cause, opposing the appointment of Praveen Sinha as interim/acting director of the central agency after the retirement of Rishi Kumar Shukla on February 2.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, representing the NGO, told the court that the work of CBI was suffering without a regular director. He added that there is no provision for the appointment of an acting director.
Bhushan also claimed that the Centre was delaying a meeting of high-powered selection committee as it “wants to bypass” Chief Justice SA Bobde, who will retire on April 23, PTI reported. The committee consists of the prime minister, chief justice of India and leader of Opposition.
Attorney General KK Venugopal said the committee meeting has been deferred till May 2 because of the Assembly elections. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta intervened to object to Bhushan’s allegations. “Unscrupulous public spirited citizens are making accusations left, right and centre against individuals and institutions,” he said. “Your lordships’ majesty is being taken for granted by the so-called PIL [public interest litigation] petitioners.”
While agreeing to hear the arguments in the case next Friday, Rao told Venugopal: “The in-charge arrangements for CBI director cannot go on. There is a point in what Bhushan is saying.”
The petition said the appointment of a full-time director as per the statutory law is necessary for upholding the rule of law. It added that the premier investigative agency should function independently for enforcement of the rights of the citizens under Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India.
“The director of the CBI is the final authority in the organisation,” it added. “He supervises all the work in the CBI and is responsible for constitution of investigating teams for probing cases. Hence, this court and later on Parliament have made determined efforts to enhance the functional autonomy of the CBI director and limit the extent of executive discretion in the matter of appointment of this key functionary.”
The petition said before Shukla’s two-year term as the CBI director came to an end on February 2, it was “incumbent on the central government to call for a meeting of the selection committee for the appointment of his successor as per the law, well in advance, so as to ensure a smooth transition”.