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