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SC agrees to hear next week plea challenging Nageshwar Rao's appointment as interim CBI chief

Denying the request to hear it on Friday, the CJI said that the matter will be taken up next week.

SC agrees to hear next week plea challenging Nageshwar Rao's appointment as interim CBI chief

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court will next week hear a plea challenging the appointment of M Nageswara Rao as interim chief of the Central Bureau of Investigation after Alok Verma's removal. The plea has been filed by an NGO in which the January 10 order of the government appointing IPS officer M Nageswara Rao as interim director of the CBI has been challenged.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for petitioner NGO Common Cause and RTI activist Anjali Bhardwaj, had posted the matter for urgent listing before a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi. Bhushan appealed to the bench, also comprising Justices N L Rao and S K Kaul, to hear the plea on Friday.

Denying the request to hear it on Friday, the CJI said that the matter will be taken up next week.

Rao was given the charge of interim chief on January 10 after a high-powered committee headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi removed Alok Verma as the chief of the probe agency on charges of corruption and dereliction of duty. Rao has been appointed till a new director takes charge of the agency.

In the plea, the NGO has also sought transparency in the process of short-listing, selection and appointment of the CBI Director. The petition claims that the lack of transparency in the appointment of the CBI Director allows the government to exercise "undue influence in the appointment process" specially at the stage of short-listing of candidates.

The plea states Rao's appointment as interim director of CBI was "illegal, arbitrary, malafide" and in violation of the provisions of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act (DSPE Act). The DSPE Act provides for the constitution of the CBI and lays down the procedure for the appointment of the CBI director.

The DSPE Act as amended by the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 provides for the appointment of the CBI director by a high powered selection committee which does not have a preponderance of the government and its representatives. The committee consists of the Prime Minister, the Leader of Opposition and the Chief Justice of India or any Judge of Supreme Court nominated by him.

"It appears that this particular committee has been completely bypassed by the Union of India which has arbitrarily and without any jurisdiction appointed Nageshwar Rao as interim Director, CBI on January 10. The appointment of Nageshwar Rao as interim CBI Director was apparently not made on the basis of recommendations of the high powered selection committee," the petition added.