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Why is Rakesh Asthana’s appointment as CBI Director challenged in Supreme court?

Following  the superannuation of Anil Kumar Sinha, the CBI Director last week, everyone was expecting his immediate deputy and second-in-command in the CBI, R.K. Dutta to be given the post of CBI Director. But curious events unfolded and barely  two days before Mr. Sinha’s superannuation, R.K.Dutta(the Special Director of CBI) was unexpectedly moved to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) as Special Secretary, a post specially created for him. Why?

The government handed over additional charge of the post of director to a Gujarat cadre IPS officer, Rakesh Asthana, who was serving as  its additional director. Is this normal procedure?

Definitely not. The normal procedure for choosing CBI director is as follows- A committee is responsible for this and the Director of the CBI is picked by this committee which comprises the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and the Chief Justice of India for a two-year term. However, the Modi administration did not call a meeting of the committee to select Mr. Sinha’s successor in the agency, knowing well ahead the date of his retirement.

“The Competent Authority has approved assignment of additional charge of the post of Director, CBI, to Shri Rakesh Asthana, IPS(GJ:84), Additional Director, CBI with effect from the date of relinquishment of charge by Shri Anil Kumar Sinha, IPS(BH:79) on completion of his tenure, with immediate effect and until further orders,” an order issued by the Department of Personnel and Training said.

Entire process is manipulated by government, says Kharge

Leader of the Opposition, Mallikarjun Kharge in his letter to the Prime Minister, said, “the entire process has been vitiated and is being manipulated to pre-empt the decision to be arrived at in the meeting of the selection committee”. “The government failed to convene the meeting. It now appears that this was done deliberately to facilitate giving the charge of the post of CBI director to an officiating junior officer by hurriedly transferring Special Director R.K. Dutta, the senior-most officer, as Special Secretary to the Ministry of Home Affairs, on 30th November, 2016,” the letter said.

PIL against Asthana as CBI Interim Director on Dec 9th

Meanwhile a petition filed by the NGO Common Cause, represented by advocate Prashant Bhushan will be heard on December 9 in the Supreme court. A Bench led by Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur on Wednesday agreed to hear the petition challenging  the appointment of Rakesh Asthana as it was made in violation of the mandatory conditions imposed by the Supreme Court.

Who is  Rakesh Asthana?

A 1984 batch IPS Officer, Rakesh Asthana, normally too junior to be considered for this high post is perceived to be very close to PM Modi and Amit Shah from the Gujarat days . In the past,  Rakesh Asthana has headed a special investigation team (SIT) that probed the Godhra train burning in which 59 Hindu activists were charred to death near the Godhra railway station in February 2002. He was also part of the team probing the Bihar chief Lalu Yadav’s fodder scam.

The Prime Minister and his men

Ever since the BJP-led NDA came to power in May 2014, there has been a steady flow of bureaucrats from PM Narendra Modi‘s home state of Gujarat to the corridors of power in Delhi. More than 30 officers belonging to Gujarat cadre has been shifted to Delhi after Modi moved to the Prime Minister’s Office in Delhi. These officers have been given important and responsible positions at the Centre.

Some of the important officers of Gujarat cadre posted at the Centre are

Rajeev Topno (1996 batch IAS officer) – Private Secretary to PM

Arvind Kumar Sharma (1988 batch IAS officer) – Joint Secretary to PM

Hasmukh Adhia (1981 batch IAS officer) – Secretary, Department of Revenue

Tapan Ray (1982 batch IAS officer) – Secretary, Ministry of Corporate Affairs

PK Mishra (1972 batch retired IAS officer) – Additional Principal Secretary to PM

Pradeep Kumar Pujari (1981 batch IAS officer) – Secretary, Ministry of Power

Ashim Khurana (1983 batch IAS officer) – Chairman, Staff Selection Commission

Amarjit Singh (1982 batch IAS officer) – Special Secretary, Ministry of Water Resources, River development and Ganga Rejuvenation

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