Justice Sikri recuses himself from hearing plea on interim CBI Director

New Delhi: Supreme Court judge Justice AK Sikri on Thursday recused himself from hearing a plea filed by an NGO challenging M Nageswara Rao’s appointment as interim director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), and asked for the matter to be listed for tomorrow.

Senior advocate Dushyant Dave, who appeared for Common Cause, the NGO that filed the plea, questioned Justice Sikri for recusing from hearing the case and said “We get a feeling that your lordships don’t want matter to be heard.”
In response to this, Justice Sikri said, “You know my difficulty. This order was passed on administrative side (CJI Gogoi listed the matter before Justice Sikri), I should have recused earlier, but the order was passed in open court, how could I have recused earlier?”

Earlier this week, Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi recused himself from hearing the plea saying he was a member of the Selection Committee, that will decide who the new CBI director will be.

The Selection Committee, comprising of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Leader of the Congress party in the Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, is scheduled to meet today to look for the replacement of ousted CBI chief Alok Verma.
The petition filed by Common Cause and social activist Anjali Bhardwaj, to secure “independence and autonomy” of the CBI, sought quashing of the order dated January 10 by which the charge and duties of the CBI Director Alok Verma have been handed over to Nageshwar Rao as an interim measure.

The petitioners claim that the lack of transparency in the appointment of the CBI Director allows the government to exercise “undue influence in the appointment process” specially at the stage of short-listing of candidates.
The plea, filed through advocate Prashant Bhushan, said the order of appointing Rao as the interim chief of the premier investigating agency was “illegal, arbitrary, malafide” and in violation of the provisions of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act (DSPE Act) that provides for the constitution of the CBI and lays down the procedure for the appointment of its director.

After Verma’s removal as CBI Director, Rao was given charge of interim CBI Director of the central agency. However, Verma refused to take up his new posting – DG, Fire Services, Civil Defence and Home Guards.