December 17, 2016 3:38:51 am
Informing the Supreme Court that a panel, comprising the PM, the CJI and the leader of the largest opposition party would meet by December-end to select a regular CBI director, the Centre Friday justified its decision to appoint Gujarat-cadre officer Rakesh Asthana as acting director of the agency after shifting a more senior officer, R K Dutta.
Arguing before a bench of Justices Kurian Joseph and Rohinton F Nariman, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi said: “Let me first inform this court that there was no requirement to go to any committee before shifting Dutta out of the CBI. He never had a fixed tenure and his appointment letter would show that. Still, the government went to the committee and complied with the provision of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act before transferring him.”
On a query by the bench, Rohatgi clarified that Dutta was a senior supervisory officer in the court-monitored 2G and coal block allocation cases and hence no permission of the special benches was required before moving him out. He also countered arguments by advocate Prashant Bhushan, who appeared for PIL petitioner NGO Common Cause, that Dutta had an impeccable record in dealing with anti-corruption matters in CBI for over 15 years and there was mala fide in transferring him.
“It is for the government to decide where its officers should work. Nobody can tell the government which officer is suitable for which job. I will also clarify that it is not a punishment posting for Dutta. He is heading a unit which is as important as CBI director. His position in the MHA is very important and sensitive. We also upgraded his salary as per his representation. Having said that, let us not forget that it is not a service matter and Dutta is not before this court challenging his transfer,” he added. The bench recorded the submissions and posted the matter for hearing on January 17.
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