Subodh Kumar Jaiswal, Director General of the CISF and an IPS officer from the 1985 batch Maharashtra cadre, was named CBI Director Tuesday. A day earlier, when the high-powered selection committee met, at least two frontrunners were knocked out of contention when Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, one of its three members, drew the attention of the panel to Supreme Court guidelines on appointment of police chiefs.
It is learnt that CJI Ramana pointed out that the March 2019 guidelines of the Supreme Court, on an application by retired IPS officer Prakash Singh, made it clear that no officer with less than six months to retirement should be appointed a state police chief.
By invoking this direction in the appointment of a CBI chief, the CJI may have set a precedent that could also apply to selection of chiefs for the IB and R&AW.
The CJI was firm on this principle and Opposition leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury backed him. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, head of the panel, was learnt to have said that the rule of law would be followed in the selection process.
This effectively ruled out the chances of two IPS officers of the 1984 batch — YC Modi of the Assam-Meghalaya cadre and Rakesh Asthana of the Gujarat cadre – for the top job in the CBI.
— Deeptiman Tiwary (@DeeptimanTY) May 25, 2021
YC Modi, currently chief of the National Investigation Agency, retires at the end of this month while Asthana, who is heading the BSF, retires in July. Both had stints in the CBI in the past and were considered frontrunners for the post of the Director.
Asthana’s first innings with the CBI was in the mid-1990s and by the time he returned to Gujarat, Narendra Modi was Chief Minister. He was police chief of Vadodara and Surat. In 2016, two years after Modi became Prime Minister, he returned to the CBI.
As Special Director, Asthana was at the centre of a controversy in 2018 when the then CBI Director, Alok Verma, had an FIR registered against him on the charge of corruption. This led to a crisis within the agency and the two officers were later divested of their responsibilities. In February 2020, the CBI gave Asthana a clean chit in the case. Last August, he was named Director General of the BSF after heading the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security – he continues to remain Director General of the NCB.
In March 2019, a bench headed by then CJI Ranjan Gogoi, on an application filed by Prakash Singh who complained that the July 2018 directive of the Supreme Court on appointments was being flouted, said: “We, therefore, clarify… that recommendation for appointment to the post of Director General of Police by the Union Public Service Commission and preparation of panel should be purely on the basis of merit from officers who have a minimum residual tenure of six months i.e. officers who have at least six months of service prior to the retirement.”
CJI Ramana, sources said, may have set a precedent in the selection of a CBI chief by insisting on the March 2019 guideline of the Supreme Court. “The Prakash Singh judgement was about appointment of DGPs of state police. CBI appointments are guided more by the Vineet Narain judgment, the CVC Act and the Lokpal Act. This could now spill over to appointments in the IB and R&AW too if the government weighs in CJI Ramana’s point,” sources said.
The chiefs of CBI, IB and R&AW have a fixed two-year tenure.