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New CBI chief appointment triggers fresh war of words between Kharge, govt

New CBI chief appointment triggers fresh war of words between Kharge, govt

New Delhi, Feb 2 (PTI) A fresh war of words broke out Saturday following the appointment of Rishi Kumar Shukla as CBI chief, with Congress' Mallikarjun Kharge alleging that selection criteria was diluted, but the government hit back accusing the opposition leader of trying to "manipulate" the process to include officers of his choice in the shortlist.Kharge, a member of the panel that decided on the appointment, sent a dissent note to Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying the criterion in selecting the CBI director was diluted to include investigation experience only and not experience in investigating anti-corruption cases.In the two-page note, he said the three-member committee, chaired by the prime minister and in which he is a member along with Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, has violated the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act (DSPE) that governs the CBI and the Supreme Court judgements."By including officers who do not have experience in investigating anti-corruption cases, committee is in violation of DSPE Act and Supreme Court judgements guiding CBI Director's appointment," Kharge said."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 in his dissent note.However, Union Minister Jitendra Singh claimed that Kharge tried to "manipulate" the criteria 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.Singh said that CJI Gogoi, who is part of the committee along with Modi and Kharge, had fully endorsed the objective criteria applied for selecting the head of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).Fifty-eight-year-old Shukla, a 1983-batch IPS officer who was removed as police chief of Madhya Pradesh a few days ago by the Congress government in the state, will have a fixed tenure of two years.Singh, whose ministry is the nodal department for the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), said the CBI director's selection was made in the objective criteria based on "seniority, service record and the experience in anti-corruption/investigation" areas."Kharge tried to manipulate the objective criteria, based on independent and impartial assessment, to select CBI Director... He wanted to include some officers of his preference in the short-list of candidates," Singh, the Union Minister of State for Personnel, told PTI.According to Kharge, the committee decided to shortlist candidates on the basis of seniority, ACR above a certain cut-off and total experience in investigation and anti-corruption of 100 months or more.As per recommendation of the committee, the shortlisted panel included 1983 batch officers Rajiv Rai Bhatnagar and Shukla, besides 1984 batch IPS officers Sudeep Lakhtakia, S Javed Ahmed and A P Maheshwari.Sources said Kharge was pushing for the case of Ahmed. The Congress leader had suggested a panel of three officers based on experience. The list had Ahmed (with 303 months of overall experience), Bhatnagar (170 months) and Lakhtakia (155 months).He said that all three aspects of seniority, integrity and experience in investigating anti-corruption cases should be given equal importance and based on criterion laid down by DSPE Act and Supreme Court.Kharge said it is important to restore the image and integrity of the CBI as a premier institution that is fighting against corruption. "One cannot stand by and accept the dilution of norms when an appointment to such a critical post is being made."By including officers who do not have experience in investigating anti-corruption cases, the committee is in violation of the DSPE Act and the Supreme Court judgements that guide the appointment of the Director of CBI," Kharge said."Hence, in addition to my remarks of disagreement already noted in the minutes of the meeting of the committee, I record my dissent for the above mentioned reasoned against the recommendation of the proposed panel of names for appointment of post of CBI director," he also said.On the contrary, Singh said, "We have reasons to find fault in the manner Kharge is conducting himself in meeting after meeting violating all the norms of propriety by speaking to media and giving his own version of deliberations happening in the high-powered panel's meet.""Not only this, in his frequent comments to media, Kharge has gone to the extent of making unsavourily and sarcastic remarks against the prime minister and the government," the minister said.Singh said one should not forget how Kharge was accommodated in the three-member selection panel by the Modi government."Established rules envisaged that the selection panel will have the Leader of Opposition (LoP) as one of the members. But as the Congress did not get enough numbers in the 2014 general elections (to be accorded the status), it was Prime Minister Narendra Modi who went out of the way to include leader of Congress (the largest opposition party) in the panel...in order to add further transparency and ensure balance in the selection procedure," he said. PTI AKV SKC NSD