Congress: BJP skewed processes to appoint interim CBI chief

All statutory processes “were delayed and frustrated” to appoint Rakesh Asthana, a junior officer, as interim CBI Director, says Congress national spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi

Photo by Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
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NH Political Bureau

The Congress on Friday attacked the appointment of Gujarat cadre IPS officer Rakesh Asthana as the interim CBI Director by the BJP-led NDA government, saying all statutory processes “were delayed and frustrated” to appoint “the junior most officer with known links to the ruling dispensation”.


Addressing the media in Parliament, Congress national spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said that the previous CBI Director Anil Sinha’s retirement date (December 2) was well known but no efforts were made to convene a meeting of the Selection Committee for almost a year. The Selection Committee comprises of the Prime Minister, the leader of the largest Opposition Party and the Chief Justice of India. “A simple amendment including the single largest party and/ or LoP was done for months to preclude the CBI Director from being chosen by a broad-based Committee which would include the CJI,” said Singhvi. “Why was no attempt made to convene a meeting of the Selection Committee for almost a year even after the LoP amendment was made?”


The NGO, Common Cause, had filed a petition to the Supreme Court alleging that the Centre took a series of steps in a “completely mala fide, arbitrary and illegal manner to ensure that Asthana was given the charge of CBI director”.


The 1984-batch Asthana was elevated as the Additional CBI Director on December 2 over other frontrunners such as CBI Special Director RK Dutta, who was shunted to the Ministry of Home Affairs as a Special Secretary. “The Modi government has perfected the art of appointment and disappointment by stealth, for extraneous and ulterior motives throwing merit to the winds and actuated by negative motives of personal benefit,” said Singhvi, adding that the Modi-led government wanted to appoint the junior most officer with known links to the ruling dispensation as “an ad hoc appointee”. It was also done to bypass other members of the Selection Committee who are due to retire shortly, Singhvi alleged. CJI TS Thakur, who has had a very frosty relationship with the Executive over many issues including that of the role of the Collegium, will retire from office on January 3, 2017.

The Congress spokesperson also pointed out that after 30 months, the BJP government has not appointed the powerful anti-corruption crusader, the Lokpal, despite the Lokpal Act having being passed during the UPA government’s tenure. “They are unable to operationalise what we created,” said Singhvi.


Singhvi pointed out that there was no clarity on other important appointments as well. The Army Chief Dalbir Singh Suhag is due to retire shortly, within this month. “There is complete uncertainty, lack of transparency and participatory exercise even on this vital issue affecting national security,” he said.


The Congress spokesperson also pointed out that after 30 months, the BJP government has not appointed the powerful anti-corruption crusader, the Lokpal, despite the Lokpal Act having being passed during the UPA government’s tenure. “They are unable to operationalise what we created,” said Singhvi.

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