PM declines to keep CBI chief appointment on hold (Roundup)

New Delhi, Nov 23: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Friday declined the BJP’s demand to keep in abeyance the appointment of Ranjit Sinha as new CBI director and also termed as “wholly unwarranted and devoid of any merit” its “insinuation” that his appointment had been rushed before the Lokpal Bill could be passed.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley wrote a letter to the prime minister and said the government had chosen to appoint a new chief of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) hours before the select committee on Lokpal tabled its report in the Rajya Sabha.

In his reply to Jaitley, the prime minister said the present CBI chief, A.P. Singh, is due to retire Nov 30. And even the government makes every effort to push enactment of the Lokpal Bill, the premier investigating agency cannot be left without an administrative head in the meantime.

“The insinuation that the appointment was made to pre−empt the procedure recommended by the select committee is wholly unwarranted and devoid of any merit. I also refute the suggestion that the appointments to this post in the past by the UPA government were motivated by collateral considerations,” the prime minister said in his reply, according to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

The select committee on Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill, 2011 tabled its report in the Rajya Sabha Friday. Sinha was Thursday appointed as the next director of the CBI for a two−year term.

Sushma and Jaitley, said the manner in which the government had made the appointment “hours before the tabling of this recommendation” led them to conclude that it wanted to pre−empt the possibility of appointment through the collegium.

According to the Lokpal select committee report, the collegium for appointment of the CBI chief includes the prime minister, leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha and the chief justice of India.

“We must record our strong disappointment and disapproval of this act of the government. We would request you to revisit this matter and keep this appointment in abeyance till such time this recommendation (of appointment through collegium) becomes a law of the land. Hopefully, this can happen in the next few days,” the letter, signed by the two BJP leaders, said.

Jaitley is the leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha and Sushma Swaraj his counterpart in the Lok Sabha.

Minister of State for Personnel V. Narayanasamy defended the government’s move and said the selection of CBI chief had been done in a fair manner following due process.

He said Sinha was the senior−most officer among the three names suggested by the central vigilance commissioner to the prime minister.

He said the BJP was not behaving as a responsible opposition and believed in “my way or no way”.

Congress spokesperson Sandeep Dikshit said the select committee report had just been tabled in Rajya Sabha but there was no certainty about the timing of passage of Lokpal Bill considering the present stalemate in parliament over foreign direct investment in multi−brand retail.

He said the bill’s passage might even take three months and the post of CBI chief could not remain vacant for that long a period.

Ranjit Sinha is a 1974 batch Indian Police Service officer of the Bihar cadre and is director general of Indo−Tibetan Border Force at present.

IANS