New Delhi, Dec 16: The Centre on Friday told the Supreme Court that curtailment of service of senior IPS officer R K Dutta at CBI was done as per the provisions of the law which govern the functioning of the probe agency. Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi submitted before a bench headed by Justice Kurian Joseph that Dutta was shifted to the Ministry of Home Affairs and his curtailment of service at CBI was done in pursuance of section 4 (C) of the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act as he does not have requisite number of years of service left.
He also informed the bench that the formal process of selecting a regular CBI director has already commenced and the members of the selection panel which includes the Prime Minister, Chief Justice of India and the Leader of Opposition are likely to meet by December end.
The bench, also comprising Justice R F Nariman, fixed the matter filed by the NGO Common Cause for further hearing on January 17 next year. The apex court had on December 9 sought the Centre's response on a plea challenging the appointment of Rakesh Asthana as the interim director of CBI after shifting of Dutta, who was supervising high profile cases like 2G spectrum and coal scams, by curtailing his tenure.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for petitioner NGO, had claimed that Dutta was shifted out of CBI to ensure that Asthana, a senior Gujarat cadre officer, was made the interim chief of the probe agency. The petition alleged that the Centre took a series of steps in a "completely mala fide, arbitrary and illegal manner to ensure that Asthana was given the charge of CBI director".
Asthana, an IPS officer of 1984-batch, was elevated as CBI's Additional Director on December 2 when its Special Director R K Dutta, who was reportedly among the frontrunners for the top post, was shifted to the Ministry of Home Affairs as a Special Secretary.
The plea has claimed that the government did not convene a meeting of the selection committee, even though it was fully aware that Anil Sinha was going to demit the office of CBI director on December 2. It alleged that the government had "prematurely curtailed" Dutta's tenure and transferred him to MHA on November 30 just two days before Sinha was slated to demit office.