The Supreme Court on Friday sought response from the Centre on a plea seeking direction for appointment of a regular CBI director.
A bench of justices L Nageswara Rao and S Ravindra Bhat issued notice on the plea filed by NGO Common Cause, which has alleged that the government has failed to appoint a regular CBI director as per section 4A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act, on the expiry of term of Rishi Kumar Shukla on February 2.
It had said that government has instead appointed Praveen Sinha, as an interim director of the premier investigating agency.
"We are issuing notice. We will have it after two week," the bench said.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the NGO, said the work of CBI is suffering because of non-appointment of a regular director and the court can have the matter next week.
The top court said that next week this bench is not available as it will be sitting in the Maratha reservation matter and for that reason it is listing after two weeks.
Bhushan said the court can ask them (Centre) to at least convene the meeting of the selection committee.
We will hear them. We are issuing notice, the bench said.
The plea, filed through Bhushan, has also sought a direction to the Centre to initiate and complete the process of selection of the CBI director well in advance, at least one to two months before the date on which the vacancy to the post is about to occur.
The director of the CBI is the final authority in the organization. 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, it said.
The plea added that the appointment of regular CBI director as per the statutory law is necessary for upholding the rule of law and for enforcement of the rights of citizens under articles of the Constitution dealing with equality before law and protection of life and personal liberty.
The plea said the Centre has appointed Sinha as an interim/acting CBI director till the appointment of a new director or until further orders.
It said that appointment of CBI director has to be made on the recommendation of a committee consisting of the prime minister, leader of the single largest opposition party and the Chief Justice of India or any judge of Supreme Court nominated by the CJI.
Referring to an earlier judgement of the apex court, the plea said the top court had directed that Director Generals of Police (DGP) in the states should have a minimum tenure of at least two years irrespective of his date of superannuation.
DGPs are the heads of police force in states and CBI is the premier central investigating agency. Both the DGPs as well as the CBI director have a minimum tenure of two years, as per the existing law of the land, it said.
It 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.
However, the central government has instead, vide order dated February 3, 2021, appointed Praveen Sinha as an interim/acting CBI director till the appointment of new CBI director, or until further orders, it said.
It said that as per media reports, the Centre could not convene meeting of the selection committee comprising the prime minister, the leader of the largest opposition party and the CJI, even though it was fully aware that Shukla was going to demit office of the CBI director on February 2 this year.
This deliberate dereliction was in complete violation of the DSPE Act, 1946, as amended by the Lokpal Act, 2013, it alleged.