Published On: Tue, Nov 28th, 2017

SC junks plea against Asthana’s appointment as CBI Special Director

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to quash the appointment of Gujarat-cadre IPS officer Rakesh Asthana as the CBI Special Director and dismissed a plea to this effect by NGO Common Cause.

Asthana was Additional Director in the Central Bureau of Investigation

A bench of Justice RK Agrawal and Justice Abhay Manohar Sapre held that the appointment “does not suffer from any illegality”.

Prior to his elevation, Asthana was Additional Director in the Central Bureau of Investigation.

The court did not accept the petitioner’s contention that CBI Director Alok Verma’s opinion in the course of consultations by the Selection Committee should have been given primacy for making appointment to the post.

There cannot be any doubt that if the statute provides for consultation with any person before making recommendation for appointment to any post, consultation with that person has to be made, the court said in its order.

But the court added that the question of giving primacy to the opinion expressed by the person with whom the consultation has to be made depends upon various factors.

The court made a distinction between consultation by a Selection Committee and the consultation by the Appointing Authority with some other constitutional/statutory authority.

“If there is no Selection Committee and the Appointing Authority is required to consult with some other constitutional/statutory authority, then the question of giving primacy to the opinion expressed by the person with whom the consultation is to be made exists,” the court said.

However, in cases where a Selection Committee has been constituted, which consists of high officials, and consultation has to be made with another person of the Department for which recommendation for appointment is to be made, in that event, the consultation is only a process of discussion which has to be taken into consideration while making recommendation by the Selection Committee, the court said. It cannot be said to have a primacy.

Referring to the minutes of the October 21 meeting of the Selection Committee that said that the decision to recommend Asthana’s appointment as CBI Special Director was unanimous, the court said newspaper reports that no decision was taken in this meeting was not correct.

NGO Common Cause had cited these reports to say that no decision was taken at the October 21 meeting.

The petitioner challenged the October 22 order of the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet that appointed Asthana as Special Director and sought the quashing of appointment on grounds that it was made illegally, arbitrarily and in violation of the principles of impeccable and institutional integrity.

The Centre defended Asthana’s appointment, saying he had an unblemished record and that he was described as an “outstanding” officer by the agency itself just a few months earlier.

Common Cause had raised questions regarding Asthana for his alleged proximity to Gujarat-based Sterling Biotech Group, a company of Sandesara Group, which is being investigated by the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate.

“The company is under investigation by the ED for alleged money laundering of Rs 5,000 crore and Asthana’s name figures in a diary seized by the Income Tax Department in 2011,” the petitioner told the apex court.

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