- This is second panel meeting to be held since Alok Verma's removal
- 33 aspirants shortlisted for the CBI director's position as of last week
- M Nageswara Rao has been working as the interim CBI chief
A high-powered committee headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi met today to appoint a new CBI chief, but the outcome of their discussions remained inconclusive. The other members of the panel are Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Opposition leader Mallikarjun Kharge.
This is the second panel meeting to be held since Alok Verma's removal from the post last month. The 1979-batch IPS officer was removed after an extended spat between him and his deputy, Rakesh Asthana, gave rise to allegations of political interference in the probe body's functioning.
After his removal from the CBI Director's post, Mr Verma was named as the Director General of Fire Services, Civil Defence and Home Guards. He did not accept the offer, and requested the government to relieve him from service because he had crossed the age of superannuation -- 60 years -- on July 31, 2017. However, the Union Home Ministry has instead decided to conduct disciplinary proceedings against him for failing to take up the new job.
Thirty-three aspirants had been shortlisted for the CBI director's position as of Thursday. While Madhya Pradesh Director General of Police RK Shukla topped it, the others in the running were Central Reserve Police Force Director General RR Bhatnagar; CBI Special Director Arvind Kumar (1984 batch); Javeed Ahmed of the Uttar Pradesh cadre; Director General (Bureau of Police Research) AP Maheswari; and Rakesh Asthana himself. However, the controversial Gujarat-based officer was graded at 94.94 - way below the other contenders. Also going against him is a first information report lodged by the very investigation agency he wants to head.
The CBI had plummeted into unprecedented turmoil after its former chief, Alok Verma, and his deputy, Rakesh Asthana, were moved out in close succession after an extended public spat. Mr Asthana - a Gujarat officer dubbed by Congress chief Rahul Gandhi as "the PM's blue-eyed boy" - was elevated to the CBI amid controversial circumstances soon after the National Democratic Alliance came to power at the centre in 2014, causing resentment in the investigation agency. Mr Verma had been opposing his appointment from the very start.
M Nageswara Rao has been working as the interim CBI chief since Mr Verma's ouster. A case challenging his appointment as the interim CBI Director has also come under a cloud, with three top judges citing various reasons to recuse themselves from hearing it.
The Supreme Court had earlier today termed considerations of transparency in the CBI director's appointment as "premature", saying that the need of the hour was to seat somebody at the head of the agency immediately. A bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Navin Sinha said it cannot lay down general guidelines on transparency in the selection process at this stage because it is busy trying to appoint a regular CBI chief.
(With inputs from PTI)