Is CBI Di­rec­tor ‘un­touch­able’ for his ac­tions, asks SC

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Does the CBI Di­rec­tor have such pro­tec­tion that nei­ther the Cen­tre nor the CVC can touch him for his any ac­tion dur­ing the fixed ten­ure of two years?

This ques­tion arose on Thurs­day in the Supreme Court which was hear­ing the pe­ti­tions filed by CBI Di­rec­tor Alok Verma and oth­ers chal­leng­ing the Cen­tre's de­ci­sion to di­vest him of all pow­ers and send­ing him on leave along with Spe­cial Di­rec­tor Rakesh Asthana. Both have lev­elled al­le­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion against each other.

When se­nior ad­vo­cates Fali Na­ri­man and Dushyant Dave, ap­pear­ing for Verma and an NGO, Com­mon Cause re­spec- tively, ar­gued that nei­ther the Cen­tre nor the Cen­tral Vig­i­lance Com­mis­sion (CVC) had any power to take dis­ci­plinary ac­tion against the CBI Di­rec­tor, a bench headed by Chief Jus­tice Ran­jan Go­goi asked: "Will that not make CBI Di­rec­tor vir­tu­ally un­touch­able? Is that what Par­lia­ment in­tended?"

"Does the fixed ten­ure of CBI Di­rec­tor su­per­sede all rules and makes him un­touch­able?", asked the bench, also com­pris­ing Jus­tices S K Kaul and K M Joseph.

These ques­tions cropped up while So­lic­i­tor Gen­eral Tushar Me­hta, ap­pear­ing for the CVC, was jus­ti­fy­ing the ac­tion taken against the CBI chief.

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court Thurs­day agreed to hear on De­cem­ber 11 in cham­ber a cu­ra­tive plea chal­leng­ing its de­ci­sion by which it had dis­missed a PIL against ap­point­ment of Gu­jarat cadre IPS of­fi­cer Rakesh Asthana as spe­cial di­rec­tor of CBI. There is a bit­ter feud be­tween Asthana and CBI Di­rec­tor Alok and both have been di­vested of pow­ers and sent on leave by the cen­tral gov­ern­ment on Oc­to­ber 23.

The apex court is seized of the cases filed by Verma and NGO Com­mon Cause against the or­der of the Cen­tre and Thurs­day re­served its ver­dict on them.

A bench headed by Chief Jus­tice Ran­jan Go­goi took note of the sub­mis­sion of lawyer Prashant Bhushan, ap­pear­ing for the NGO, men­tioned the cu­ra­tive plea and sought ur­gent hear­ing.

"If you're go­ing to men­tion your cu­ra­tive, it is listed on Tues­day. This is about Asthana. Right? Why keep sus­pense, say the name," the bench, also com­pris­ing jus­tices S K Kaul and K M Joseph, said.

The apex court, on Novem­ber 28, 2017, had dis­missed the PIL filed by the NGO against the ap­point­ment of Asthana to the post of CBI spe­cial di­rec­tor, say­ing it can­not ques­tion a "unan­i­mous" de­ci­sion taken by the se­lec­tion com­mit­tee and the de­ci­sion is not il­le­gal.

Later, the court also dis­missed the plea seek­ing re­view of the ver­dict. Now, the cu­ra­tive plea, which can only be heard in cham­ber, has been filed against the or­der.

Once there is con­sul­ta­tion, the con­tent of that con­sul­ta­tion is be­yond the scope of ju­di­cial re­view, though the lack of ef­fec­tive con­sul­ta­tion could fall within the scope of ju­di­cial re­view, it had said.

The top court had said there can­not be any doubt that if the statute pro­vides for con­sul­ta­tion with any per­son be­fore mak­ing a rec­om­men­da­tion for ap­point­ment to any post, the con­sul­ta­tion with that per­son has to be made.

The NGO in its pe­ti­tion had chal­lenged Asthana's ap­point­ment, say­ing it was il­le­gal as his name had sur­faced in a di­ary re­cov­ered dur­ing a raid con­ducted by the In­come Tax de­part­ment at the of­fices and other premises of com­pany Ster­ling Biotech Ltd.

The Cen­tre had said that Asthana, who was ear­lier an ad­di­tional di­rec­tor in CBI, was look­ing af­ter its eleven zones and had su­per­vised the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and trial of sev­eral scam cases, in­clud­ing Au­gusta West­land, Am­bu­lance Scam, King­fisher, Has­san Ali Khan, Moin Qureshi and coal scam cases.

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