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Why did govt ignore CVC opposition while making Rakesh Asthana CBI special director?

Catch Team | Updated on: 23 October 2017, 20:07 IST
(Arun Sharma/Hindustan Times/Getty Images)

The appointment of Rakesh Asthana, a senior Gujarat cadre IPS officer, as the new CBI special director has led to a controversy.

Lawyer activist Prashant Bhushan has called it illegal. Asthana, till his promotion was serving as additional director in Delhi overseeing important investigations including the Augusta Westland case and the Vijay Mallya case.

The announcement of Asthana’s promotion is part of eight other decisions the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) took late Sunday evening.

The ACC notification came as a surprise as the media had, all evening long, reported about how a red flag had been raised in the selection committee meeting and about how Asthana’s integrity was being questioned because of certain details in a diary that was recovered during a raid on the Sandesara Group, a business house from Gujarat which was raided by both the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate (ED).

As per reports, on Saturday, Chief Vigilance Commissioner KV Chowdary convened a meeting of the CBI selection committee to decide if Asthana, due for a promotion, should be pushed up the ladder from an additional director to the post of a special director. But several members invoked the integrity clause because of the documents of a corruption case that the CBI itself is investigating.

In protest

After the notification, Bhushan said that he will challenge the decision in court for it ran contrary to the Supreme Court Judgement in the Vineet Narain case.

This is not the first time Bhushan would approach the apex court against Asthana’s appointment. In January, he had moved the Supreme Court after Asthana was given the charge of Director, CBI once Anil Sinha demitted office. The second seniormost officer, Rupak Datta, was moved to the Home Ministry.

The PIL alleged that "the government took a series of steps in a completely malafide, arbitrary and illegal manner to ensure that Mr Rakesh Asthana was given the charge of CBI Director." This was before the the selection committee met and chose Alok Verma, the former Delhi Police Commissioner, as the new CBI Chief.

The PIL cited the important Vineet Narain judgement of the Supreme Court and subsequent changes in the DSPE Act, calls it a dereliction, which ought to be set aside.

Interestingly, when former director Ranjit Sinha brought in Archana Ramachandran as an Additional Director without the nod of the committee headed by the Central Vigilance Commission (as per protocol), the move was quashed by the Supreme Court.

It is being alleged that Asthana is close to the BJP leadership. After all, he hails from the Gujarat cadre (where Prime Minister Narendra Modi served as chief minister, and BJP national president Amit Shah as home minister), and was part of important investigations, including the SIT that probed the Godhra train burning incident of 2002.

First published: 23 October 2017, 20:07 IST