Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi Monday recused himself from hearing a plea challenging appointment of M Nageswara Rao as the interim CBI director, adding that he would be part of the selection committee meeting to choose the new CBI director.
The high-powered selection committee comprises the prime minister, the leader of the largest opposition party and the CJI or his nominee judge of the apex court.
The plea is now scheduled to be heard on January 24 by another bench.
A bench comprising CJI and Justice Sanjiv Khanna was hearing a PIL filed by NGO Common Cause challenging the appointment of Rao as interim CBI director.
The plea sought quashing of the January 10 order stating that duties of former CBI Director Alok Verma were to be handed over to Rao as an interim measure.
The plea said the government should ensure transparency in the short-listing, election and appointment process of the CBI director by publicly disclosing, including through the website, the procedure and rational criteria for short-listing candidates, if it is done.
It sought a direction to the Centre ensuring that the process of selecting a CBI director, including composition, mandate and minutes of the meetings of the search committee, be disclosed publicly along with names of short-listed candidates so people can inform the panel of any significant adverse information they may have about any such candidate.
The plea claimed that lack of transparency in the appointment prevents any public scrutiny of the process and allows the "government to exercise undue influence" in the appointment process especially at the stage of short-listing of candidates.
Detailing the sequence of events relating to the appointment of Rao as the interim CBI director, the plea alleged that the entire process was "mala fide" as the government wanted to "appoint its own choice as CBI Director in the interim".
On January 8, the apex court Verma to return as the CBI director, albeit with his wings clipped, by setting aside the Centre and the CVC's orders divesting him of his powers and sending him on leave.
January 10 order states that the Appointment Committee of the Cabinet approved the appointment of Nageshwar Rao "as per the earlier arrangement".
This earlier arrangement - October 23, 2018 order making Rao interim CBI Director, had been quashed by the Supreme Court on January 8 as it was made in violation of the procedure for appointment of CBI Director as defined in the DSPE Act, said the petition.
It sought a direction to the Centre to appoint a regular CBI director forthwith by following the procedure laid down in accordance with the provisions of the DSPE Act, as amended by the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013.
Besides, the petition sought an immediate direction to the government to ensure that "all records of deliberations and rational criteria related to short-listing and selection of the director, CBI, be properly recorded and made available to citizens in consonance with the provisions of the RTI Act".
(With inputs from agencies)