Two frontrunners in the race for the post of Director, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) who were also believed to be the government’s top choices, were eliminated after Chief Justice of India NV Ramana invoked the ‘rule of law’. 1984-batch officers YC Modi and Rakesh Asthana are now out of contention for the post. YC Modi belongs to the Assam-Meghalaya cadre while Asthana to the Gujarat cadre. The government had to drop the two candidates after Chief Justice of India N V Ramana cited a Supreme Court guideline on the appointment of police chiefs. According to reports, the chief justice pointed out that as per the apex court’s guidelines as mentioned in the Prakash Singh case of March 2019, no officer with less than six months to retirement should be appointed as police chief. With Leader of the Opposition Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury coming out in support of CJI Ramana, Prime Minister Narendra Modi agreed by saying that the rule of law would be followed in the selection. Notably, the selection committee comprises Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Prime Minister and Leader of Opposition. With CJI Ramana and Chowdhury siding with the ‘rule of law’, the Centre’s top two choices were vetoed 2:1.
YC Modi is currently the chief of the National Investigation Agency and retires at the end of this month. Asthana is heading the BSF and retires in July. Both the officials have served in the CBI and are trusted by the Modi government.
The panel finally agreed on three names which included CISF chief Subodh Kumar Jaiswal, SSB DG Kumar Rajesh Chandra and Special Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) VSK Kaumudi. The Department of Personnel and Training had submitted a list of 109 officers on May 11 in which only these three centrally empanelled officers had more than six months to their retirement.
While Kumar Rajesh Chandra is set to retire in December this year, Subodh Kumar Jaiswal will retire in September next year and Kaumudi in November next year. On the other hand, Jaiswal is the senior-most among the three officers. If the government considers seniority, Jaiswal will emerge as the natural choice and if prior work experience with the CBI is given prominence, Kaumudi will be the choice for the post as he is the only one who had previously worked with the CBI. According to reports, the requirement of prior CBI experience is not a rule.
A senior security establishment officer told the Indian Express that the Prakash Singh judgment was about the appointment of DGPs of state police as the appointments for CBI are guided by the judgement in the Vineet Narain case, the CVC Act and the Lokpal Act. The officer said that CJI Ramana’s insistence could now spill over to appointments in the IB and R&AW too. The heads of the CBI, IB and R&AW have fixed two-year tenures.