Public interest lawyer and activist, Prashant Bhushan has pointed out that the appointment of Rakesh Asthana as Special Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is ‘illegal’ and claimed that it destroyed the independence of the investigating agency, reports The New Indian Express.
Gujarat cadre Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Rakesh Asthana was appointed as the Special Director of the CBI on 22 October. He was working as the Additional Director of CBI and was handling important investigations like that of the AgustaWestland probe.
Bhushan has filed a PIL in the Supreme Court and tweeted, “In my view, this is illegal, and we will certainly challenge it. This shows the present government is hell-bent on destroying independence and integrity of CBI.”
Bhushan has also added that the Asthana’s name is involved in the Sterling Biotech money laundering case that the CBI has itself registered an FIR against.
The FIR was filed against three top Income Tax Commissioners for accepting bribes from the Gujarat-based Sterling Biotech and Sandesara Group of Companies.
The FIR mentions a “Diary 2011” found during raids on a company that bears the name of Asthana.
Bhushan’s contentions with the appointment
Bhushan has filed the petition in the Supreme Court on behalf of the NGO Common Cause. The PIL states that the government did not follow the rules and regulations even while the appointing the CBI Director.
Asthana, a relatively junior officer, was made the Ad-hoc Director of the CBI. But after being questioned by the Supreme Court, the government made him the Additional Director.
The petition points out that the government fell prey to nepotism while choosing the interim CBI Director. It points out that the government has also chosen to bypass the judgement of the Supreme Court in Vineet Narain case.
In an interview, Bhushan has stated the apex court in the case above had laid down that the CBI Chief is supposed to have a tenure of two years. This was done to avoid ad-hocism(acting) in the appointment of the CBI Chief.
A meeting that was held on 21 October, of the CVC Selection Committee chaired by the Chief Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) K V Chowdhary did not approve Asthana’s promotion due to a two-page note, submitted by the CBI Director pointing at his association with the Sterling Biotech case.
The Selection Committee is made to ensure impartiality in promotions, transfers, dismissals, repatriation of officers from Superintendent Rank in CBI and the Enforcement Directorate (ED). The Appointments Committee of Cabinet (ACC) is supposed to abide by the directions given by the Committee.
However, regarding the promotion of Asthana, the ACC did not pay heed to the recommendations of the CVC Select Committee and went ahead to make him the Special Director of CBI on 22 October, a Sunday.
The Logical Indian urges the concerned authorities to look into the matter and to ensure that no amount of nepotism or foul play is involved in the promotion of Rakesh Asthana. It is vital that investigative and probe agencies are kept outside governmental influence to ensure fair and speedy deliverance of justice.