Justice AK Sikri recuses from hearing plea against M Nageswara Rao’s appointment as interim CBI director

Justice AK Sikri on Thursday recused himself from hearing a petition challenging appointment of M Nageshwar Rao as the interim director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). This follows a controversy after it was reported that Justice Sikri’s name had been cleared for appointment to a tribunal in London after his retirement. Earlier, Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had recused himself from hearing the same matter.

The matter will now be heard tomorrow by another bench.

The report came soon after Justice Sikri participated in the CBI selection panel which removed Alok Verma as the agency’s chief. Justice Sikri had sided with the government’s view on the matter.

Rao was given the charge of CBI’s interim chief earlier in January till the appointment of a new director after a high-powered committee headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi removed Alok Kumar Verma as the chief of the probe agency on charges of corruption and dereliction of duty.

The petition, filed by NGO Common Cause and RTI activist Anjali Bhardwaj, has sought laying down of specific mechanisms to ensure transparency in the process of appointment of the CBI director.

It alleged Rao’s appointment was not made on the basis of recommendations of the high-powered selection committee, comprising the Prime Minister, the leader of the single largest opposition party and Chief Justice of India or a judge of the top court nominated by him.

Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi has recused himself from hearing the plea and said that the petition should be heard by a court number 2 presided by justice AK Sikri.

Seeking transparency in the process of short-listing, selection and appointment of the CBI director, justice Gogoi said he would be participating in a meeting of the selection panel to select the agency chief. The panel is likely to meet on Thursday.

Earlier, a bench led by CJI had revoked a government order sending then-CBI chief on leave and restored him as the agency boss. It had asked the selection panel headed by Prime Minister Modi to take a call on the matter.

The CJI who was supposed to be a member of the panel, deputed justice Sikri in his place as he had heard the case against him.

The panel, which also comprises leader of the largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge of Congress, had however removed Verma as the chief within a few days of the verdict.

Rao, who was appointed as interim chief of the premier investigation agency in October when Verma and his deputy were sent on leave, was re-appointed as the interim chief of the agency.

Verma, the first CBI director to be removed by a PM-led panel, refused to take up his next assignment and resigned from service. He complained that he had not been given an opportunity to present his side and the Central Vigilance Commission.

Congress’ Kharge had opposed Verma’s removal in a dissent note, saying he should not be penalised and be given an extension of 77 days for which he was not allowed to attend the office.

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