New Delhi, Feb 2 (IANS) Rishi Kumar Shukla, former Madhya Pradesh Director General of Police, an officer without any anti-corruption work experience, was on Saturday appointed the chief of India’s top probe agency by the government, which brushed aside a dissent note from Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge opposing the choice.
The appointment of 59-year-old Shukla, who was shunted from the post of DGP, Madhya Pradesh, by the new Congress government to the state’s Police Housing Corporation only three days ago, came 20 days after Alok Verma was removed unceremoniously from the post following his bitter feud with Special Director Rakesh Asthana.
“The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet, based on the panel recommended by the Committee, constituted as per Section 4 A(1) of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946, approved the appointment of Rishi Kumar Shukla as the Director, CBI, vice Alok Kumar Verma for a period of two years from the date of assumption of charge of the office,” an official notification said.
The Appointment of the 1983-batch IPS officer for a period of two years also came a day after a high-level selection committee headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi met to finalise the name. The committee also including Chief Justice of India and Kharge had met twice in the last nine days to choose the CBI chief.
The 59-year-old Shukla, who was DGP during the BJP regime in Madhya Pradesh for nearly three years, has not worked in the CBI or in the state’s anti-corrupion wing at any time in his career. He would have normally retired in August next year but his tenure at CBI will come to an end in February 2021.
Sources said two names–Rajiv Rai Bhatnagar, a 1983-batch UP cadre IPS officer, and Shukla were zeroed in from out of the five shortlisted officers and the government recommended Shukla for the top post in the CBI on ground he was the senior-most.
Opposing this, Kharge, in his dissent note, said the criterion decided in the high-level committee meeting “has diluted this to include investigation experience”.
“This would be both against the letter and spirit of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act which clearly states investigation of anti-corruption case,” he said.
He cited the Supreme Court judgement in the Vineet Narain case, which said the Committee will appoint an IPS officer on the basis of seniority, integrity and experience in the field of anti-corruption, a point also stressed by the DSPE Act.
The Committee, in its meeting, set out seniority, ACR above a certain cut-off and a total experience in investigation and anti-corruption of 100 months or more.
He then produced the seniority of five short-listed officers who all had anti-corruption experience, except Shukla. Of them, S. Javed Ahmed, a 1984 UP cadre officer, had the maximum of 303 months of investigative experience, of which 160 months related to anti-corruption. Bhatnagar had 170 months of investigative experience, including 25 months in anti-corruption.
“Adding of general investigative experience to experience in investigation of anti-corruption cases has led to inclusion of candidates who either have no experience or at best very little experience in investigation of anti-corruption case,” Kharge said.
He said all three aspects — seniority, integrity and investigative experience in investigation of anti-corruption cases–should be given equal weightage in the matter to get the best suited officers in the shortlist.
Based on these criteria, Kharge recommended a list of three officers putting Javed Ahmed at the top, followed by Bhatngar and Sudeep Lakhtakia, a 1984 Telangana cadre officer, 147 months of investigative experience, including 14 months in anti-corruption work.
“It is important to restore the image and integrity of the CBI as a premier institution that is fighting against corruption. Hence, prior experience of having served in the institution should be given primacy after having shortlisted candidates based on their seniority and their ACR,” he said.
“One cannot stand by and accept the dilution of norms when an appointment to such a critical post is being made,” he said in the dissent note adding by including officers who do not have experience in investigating anti-corruption cases, the Committee was in violation of the SSPE Act and the apex court judgements.
Referring to the continuance of M. Nageshwara Rao, who was appointed interim chief in October last year after Verma and Asthana were forced to go on leave following mutual allegations of corruption, capping the bitter feud, the Supreme Court had on Friday raised questions as to how long the present situation in the CBI will continue with an inerim chief.
A Supreme Court Bench comprising Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Naveen Sinha told the government that the post of CBI Director was sensitive and that the government should have appointed a regular director by now.
On January 10, the high-level committee had removed Verma as CBI chief a day after he was reinstated by the Supreme Court. He was made the Director General, Fire Services, Civil Services and Home Guard which he refused to accept.