SC finds no illegality in appointment of Asthana as CBI special director

SC finds no illegality in appointment of Asthana as CBI special director

The Supreme Court on Tuesday found no illegality in the appointment of Gujarat-cadre IPS officer Rakesh Asthana as special director of the CBI on October 22.

"We cannot question the decision taken by the selection committee which is unanimous and before taking the decision, the director, CBI, had participated in the discussions and it is based on relevant materials and considerations," a bench of Justices R K Agrawal and Abhay Manohar Sapre said.

The court also reiterated that once there is consultation, it is beyond the scope of judicial review,  though lack of effective consultation could be examined.

The court dismissed a PIL filed by NGO Common Cause through advocate Prashant Bhushan, which contended that Asthana, a 1984-batch officer, had reportedly been named in a secret diary recovered from the Income Tax raid in a Surat-based firm for having regularly received bribes.

His son was  claimed to have worked with M/s Sterling Biotech, the firm under the investigation of the CBI. It was also  claimed that his daughter's marriage cocktail party was organised at a farmhouse of M/s Sandesaran Group of companies.

Rejecting the arguments, the court said in the FIR filed by the CBI on August 30, 2017, Asthana's name has not been mentioned at all. "Thus, lodging of FIR will not come in the way of considering Asthana for the post of special director, after taking into consideration his service record and work and experience," it said.

After going through the minutes of the selection committee meetings provided by Attorney General K K Venugopal, the court also found the news reports as factually incorrect which stated that no meeting had taken place on the appointment of special director on October 21.

The court noted that the selection committee has even discussed the secret and an unsigned note was produced by the CBI director. The committee found that it was not clear if the note was about the same Asthana and further there was nothing about the veracity of its content, the court said.

Venugopal defended the decision saying the CBI itself had on July 6 recommended Asthana as a suitable candidate to hold the post of special director, in view of his vast experience  in the supervision of functions of 11 zones, investigations and trials in cases like the Augusta Westland, ambulance scam, Kingfisher, Hassan Ali Khan, Moin Qureshi, and coal scam among others.

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