PM rejects BJP demand to put CBI chief appointment on hold

The BJP Friday demanded that the appointment of the new CBI director be put on hold until Parliament passes the Lokpal Bill, but the Prime Minister rejected it saying the premier investigating agency cannot be left without a administrative head until the proposed law is enacted.

In a strongly-worded letter to BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said it was wrong to suggest that the current appointment or previous appointments to this post by his government were "motivated by collateral considerations".

"In view of the above, the question of keeping the new appointment in abeyance does not arise," he said.

The main opposition party had alleged that the government had rushed the appointment in order to "pre-empt" a "unanimous" recommendation made by the select committee on the Lokpal Bill to dilute the role of the government in the appointment process. The committee's report was tabled in Parliament on Friday, a day after the government announced that ITBP chief Ranjit Sinha, a Bihar cadre IPS officer, will be CBI chief after A P Singh retires on November 30.

"The manner in which the government has made this appointment hours before the tabling of this recommendation in the Rajya Sabha persuades us to the conclusion that the government wanted to pre-empt the possibility of this recommendation, at least in the present appointment," Swaraj and Jaitley had said in a letter to Singh in the morning.

"We must record our strong disappointment and disapproval of this act of the government," the letter said. "We would request you to revisit this matter and keep this appointment in abeyance till such time this recommendation becomes a law of the land. Hopefully, this can happen in the next few days."

Late in the evening, Singh wrote back, rejecting their "insinuation" and explaining why the appointment could not be held back.

"Many changes have been suggested by the select committee which are required to be considered by the government for introducing official amendments. After the bill as amended is duly passed by the Rajya Sabha, it will be returned to the Lok Sabha for further consideration," he said.

"In the meanwhile, the tenure of the present incumbent on the post of director, CBI is ending on 30 November, 2012. Even as we will make all possible efforts to enact the new law at the earliest, you would agree that a premier investigating agency like the CBI cannot be left without an administrative head pending the enactment," Singh said.

"Under the circumstances the government has, in public interest, made the appointment in accordance with the provisions of the CVC Act as presently applicable and the extant procedures, which had been set in motion much earlier," he said.

"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.

Swaraj and Jaitley had pointed out that the select committee had recommended that the "director of the CBI will be appointed by a collegium" comprising the Prime Minister, leader of opposition in Lok Sabha and the Chief Justice of India. They stressed that the recommendation had been made "unanimously", and therefore likely to be "part of the law, which will be legislated very soon".

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