Two senior IAS officers BSF chief Rakesh Asthana and NIA head YC Modi are out of the running for the director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) after Chief Justice of India NV Ramana cited a Supreme Court guideline to rule out their nominations.
This unprecedented move on the CJI’s part came during a high-powered committee meeting Monday evening, during which he, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and leader of opposition Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury discussed the appointment of the new CBI chief.
Sources suggest that originally from a list of 109 names consisting of officers from the 1984-1987 batches, the DoPT initially shortlisted 10 names for the consideration of the high-powered committee and later narrowed down to six names at about 4:30 pm, an hour and a half before the meeting was scheduled. Rakesh Asthana and YC Modi were reportedly the Centre’s top choices for the post.
CJI Ramana cited before the committee the “six-month rule” mentioned in the 2006 landmark Prakash Singh judgment on police reforms. This is reportedly the first time the rule has been put forward during the selection of a new CBI director, and the Chief Justice insisted that it be complied with.
WHAT IS THE PRAKASH SINGH JUDGMENT?
The idea of the judgment was to fix the problems in the tenure and selection of police chiefs to avoid a situation where an officer who was to retire within a few months was given the post. The Supreme Court had ruled that no officer with less than six months’ tenure remaining can be considered for the post of chief. With Rakesh Asthana set to retire on July 31 and YC Modi set to retire on May 31, both would be immediately ruled out of the running by virtue of this judgment.
The Prakash Singh judgment is a very important milestone for police reforms in India. In 1996, Singh, who had served as the DGP of UP and Assam, had moved the apex court after his retirement highlighting the most glaring gaps and bad practices in the functioning of the police in India.
By 2006, the Supreme Court had realized the gravity of the problem and said that it could not wait anymore for governments to take steps on their own. The top court then went on to issue a series of directions which were binding on the governments and were to be complied with until legislation on these reforms was enacted. As part of these directions, the “six-months rule” came into being.
WHO WILL BE THE NEXT CBI CHIEF?
With the CJI and the opposition leader in agreement that the six-months rule ought to be enforced, the Centre’s top choices were ruled out. The committee then zeroed in on three final names that would be considered for the post former DGP of Maharashtra Subodh Kumar Jaiswal, DG of Sashastra Seema Bal Kumar Rajesh Chandra and home ministry special secretary VSK Kaumudi.