SC Asks Government if Outgoing CBI Director Can Continue

Recently the Supreme Court asked the Union Government about the feasibility of the continuation of the term for the Director of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

A Bench led by Justice L. Nageswara Rao asked the Government, which was represented by Attorney–General K. K. Venugopal, whether, under exceptional circumstances, can the Government continue with the outgoing director instead of appointing an Acting Director while the high-powered committee determines a name of the next director.

The court asked this question to the Government while listening upon the matter, the plea for which instituted by the NGO Common Cause, which has been fighting for recognition of several legal rights in the courts historically. The NGO was represented by advocate Prashant Bhushan, according to whom the law does not permit the Government to issue executive orders on its own, appointing interim CBI Directors.

This matter resolves around the legal issue of how the law does not empower the Government to issue executive orders with respect to appointing an interim director of the Central Bureau of Investigation.

Mr Bhushan argued in the matter and said that since 2017, the Government had resorted to this convention thrice. He said that such practice would not only hamper the functional autonomy of this elite probe agency but may also cause administrative imbalance among this premier institution which has investigated several sensitive cases in the nation.

The present petition was filed by Common Cause, in lieu of the appointment of Mr Praveen Sinha as the interim or acting Director of CBI on the 3rd of February and indicted in the failure in the duty of the Government to appoint the Director of CBI. The petition stated that “the Government has failed in the appointment of the director of CBI as per section 4A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act of 1946, the office of whom was held by Mr Rishi Kumar Shukla which went incumbent on 2nd of February this year.

The petition questioned the validity of the appointment on such post of interim or acting director through executive order has not been envisaged under the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act of 1946.

In this reply to this question, the top law officer representing the Union of India has sought the time for responding to which the court has listed the matter to be heard after the Diwali vacation next month.

Central Bureau of Investigation

  • It is the premier investigating agency of India operating under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions.
  • It derives its power from the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act of 1946.
  • It was originally set up to investigate specific matters such as bribery and governmental corruption.
  • In the year 1965, the jurisdiction of the Central Bureau of Investigation was expanded, and now it had the jurisdiction to investigate matters including breaches of central laws enforceable by the Government of India, multi-state organized crime, multiagency or international cases.
  • It is known to investigate several economic crimes, special crimes, cases of corruption, and other cases.
  • It is also important to note that the Central Bureau of Investigation has been exempted from the purview of the Right to Information Act.
  • CBI is also India’s officially designated single point of contact for liaison with Interpol.

Composition of CBI

  • The CBI is headed by a Director, an IPS officer with the rank of Director General of Police.
  • The director is selected by a high-profile committee constituted under The Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act, 1946 as amended through The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013, and has a two-year term.
  • The Appointment Committee consists of the following;

1. Prime Minister acts as the Chairperson for this high–powered selection committee.

2. Leader of Opposition of Lok Sabha or the Leader of the single largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha, if the former is not present due to lack of mandated strength in the Lok Sabha – member

3. Chief Justice of India or a Supreme Court Judge recommended by the Chief Justice – member