SC agrees to examine if outgoing CBI chief can be given extension


The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to examine a plea seeking extension of the CBI Director’s tenure in emergency situations, in the absence of finalisation of the name of the successor, rather than appointing an interim Director.

Attorney General K.K. Venugopal submitted before a bench of Justices Nageswara Rao and B.R. Gavai that the CBI Director has been appointed and the petition filed by NGO Common Cause, citing the delay in appointment, has become infructuous.

However, advocate Prashant Bhushan, representing the NGO, pressed the government should not be allowed to appoint an interim Director, after the superannuation of the incumbent CBI Director. He argued that in exceptional circumstances, the outgoing Director should be asked to continue to function till a regular appointment is made, and there should not be any ad-hoc appointment.

On Venugopal’s contention that the NGO’s plea has become infructuous, Bhushan argued that he was pressing for another prayer in the petition, which is against the appointment of an interim Director, which is usual practice followed by the Central government.

The AG submitted that the delay in regular appointment happened as the High-Powered Committee could not meet against the backdrop of Covid-19 pandemic. He clarified that at times, there might be difficulties in the meeting of the committee, and in these exceptional circumstances, ad hoc appointments are made.

The bench sought the AG’s response on Bhushan’s contention, and scheduled the matter for further hearing next week.

Bhushan contended that the top court in the Prakash Singh case had barred the practice of appointment of acting CBI Directors and acting DGPs. He submitted these were being violated.

He alleged since 2017, the Centre took the recourse of appointing interim Director thrice, and this practice should stop, as it affects functioning of the agency.

The NGO had moved the top court alleging the government failed to appoint a regular CBI Director as per section 4A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, on the expiry of term of Rishi Kumar Shukla on February 2. The NGO had argued that appointment of Praveen Sinha, as an interim Director of the premier investigating agency in violation of the court’s earlier direction.