Ending a four-month impasse, the Government on Saturday named 1983 batch Indian Police Service (IPS) officer and former Director General of Police of Madhya Pradesh Rishi Kumar Shukla as the new Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Director for a fixed tenure of two years.
However, the finalisation of Shukla’s name in a 2-1 decision by the Prime Minister-led selection panel, which has Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and the leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge as the other members, has led to a new controversy.
Congress leader Kharge submitted a dissent note to the PM opposing Shukla’s name on the grounds of his “inexperience” in handling anti-corruption investigations. But Union Minister Jitendra Singh charged Kharge with “wanting to manipulate the CBI chief selection criteria by including officers of his choice in short-list”. Singh claimed the CJI had fully endorsed the objective criteria applied for the selection of agency chief.
Singh alleged that Kharge, has tried to “manipulate” the criteria for selection of the CBI chief with the ulterior motive of accommodating some of his preferred officers. He also hit out at Kharge for “giving his own version” of the panel’s deliberations to the media. “
In a two-page dissent note, Kharge said the three-member committee, chaired by Modi and in which he is a member along with the CJI, has violated the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act (DSPE) that governs the CBI and the Supreme Court judgements.
Kharge said the criterion in selecting the CBI Director has been diluted to include investigation experience only and not experience in investigating anti-corruption cases. “Seniority cannot be only criterion in appointment to such a critical post and experience in anti-corruption cases and prior experience of having served in the organisation should also be considered,” said the Congress leader.
Shukla was removed as DGP of Madhya Pradesh only three days ago by the new Congress Government in the State. He is currently posted as chairman of the MP Police Housing Corporation.
Shukla will take charge from acting director M Nageswara Rao, who took over the post last month following the removal of Alok Verma from the CBI Director’s post.
Shukla will take charge of the CBI at a time when the agency is going through a leadership crisis and discontent among subordinate officers, who are upset with their “unjustified transfers”. Sources said although Shukla has not served in the CBI, he was in the Intelligence Bureau where he handled several sensitive matters.
He is known for ensuring quick investigations into cases of rape in the State during his tenure as the police chief, leading to a substantial decrease in such a heinous crime. A post-graduate in Philosophy and a native of Gwalior, Shukla ensured that charge sheets in criminal cases were filed at the earliest to ensure timely start of trial so that delay in delivery of justice could be minimised, sources said.
After passing out from the National Police Academy, Shukla served in Raipur, Damoh, Shivpuri and Mandsaur districts in different capacities, before taking over as DGP. He underwent training in the USA for crisis management and hostage negotiations, besides another stint of training in London.
Shukla will have a task to complete probes in crucial cases such as the AgustaWestland scam, 2G scam, coal scam, Air India scandal, charges against Congress leaders P Chidambaram and Bhupinder Singh Hooda, UP sand mining scam, Saradha and Rosevalley chit fund probes, FIR against former ICICI Bank CEO Chanda Kochhar, among others. The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet approved the appointment of Shukla.
Shukla’s name was short-listed during the second meeting of the three-member panel, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to appoint the CBI director. The panel had held a meeting on Friday but it remained inconclusive following objections by Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge on the names shortlisted by the government. The panel had also met on January 24 to select the name from a list of over 70 candidates for the investigating agency’s top job but it remained inconclusive. The other members of the panel are Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Opposition leader Mallikarjun Kharge.
Sources said in the second meeting on Friday PM Modi put forth the names of officers who could be considered for appointment as the new chief of CBI. During the meeting, Kharge had raised objections on the names of three probable contenders proposed by the government. The other top contenders for the prestigious post were senior IPS officers of 1984 batch, Javeed Ahmed, Rajni Kant Misra and S S Deswal.
The CBI chief’s post has been lying vacant since January 10 after the unceremonious exit of Verma, who had been engaged in a bitter fight with Gujarat-cadre IPS officer Rakesh Asthana over corruption charges.
The development assumes significance as on Friday, the Supreme Court had said it was “averse” to the arrangement of an interim CBI Director and the Centre should “immediately” appoint a regular chief of the probe agency. The post of CBI Director is “sensitive” and “important”, and it is not good to keep an interim director of the agency for longer period, the top court observed and sought to know as to why the government has not made the appointment yet.
The CBI had plummeted into unprecedented turmoil after Verma and Asthana were moved out in close succession after an extended public spat. 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. Verma had been opposing his appointment from the very start.
After his removal from the CBI Director’s post, Verma was transferred 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.
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