CBI and ED appointments that triggered controversies
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On Sunday, the Centre brought two ordinances to extend the tenure of the Crime Investigation Bureau (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) directors for up to five years, triggering opposition allegations that it will further hurt the autonomy of the investigative agencies. Here’s a look at some of the appointments to these agencies that have recently sparked a row. Special director of the ED, Vineet Agarwal in April 2021 transferred Satyabrata Kumar, the leading officer in the probe against businessman Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi. Within hours, ED director Sanjay Mishra revoked Satyabrata Kumar’s transfer, saying Agarwal was not authorised to transfer him on his own. Officials in the anti-money laundering probe agency said the government interpreted Agarwal’s action as an effort to interfere in the crucial Nirav Modí probe and decided to send him packing.
Rishi Kumar Shukla was named CBI director three days after former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath removed him as the head of state police chief in February 2019. Congress’ Mallikarjun Kharge, who was part of the selection panel, opposed his appointment by citing Supreme Court judgment and the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act that listed seniority, integrity, and experience in investigating corruption cases as prerequisites for the job of CBI director. He claimed that Rishi Kumar Shukla was inexperienced in handling anti-corruption cases. In the end, the objection was overruled. Rakesh Astana’s appointment as CBI’s special director in 2016 was opposed by non-governmental organisation (NGO) Common Cause. The NGO claimed that Asthana allegedly accepted favours from Gujarat-based Sterling Biotech and Sandesara Group of companies when he was Surat police commissioner in 2011. But the court dismissed the challenge to Asthana’s appointment.
Ranjit Sinha’s appointment as CBI chief in December 2012 too triggered a controversy with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) demanding that his promotion be put on hold citing a Rajya Sabha panel’s recommendation that a collegium should select the CBI chief. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) chief Arvind Kejriwal also questioned the “secretive manner” in which the government chose Sinha and called him a “tainted person”. However, the government said that the selection was done in a fair manner and that the Prime Minister had the authority to decide on the matter.