Justice Ramana became the third judge of the apex court to recuse himself from hearing the matter as Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi and the second senior-most judge in the court Justice A K Sikri had earlier recused themselves from adjudicating the case.
NGO Common Cause has approached the top court challenging the Centre’s decision to appoint Rao as the interim CBI director.
While recusing himself from hearing the matter, Justice Ramana said Rao is from his home state and he had attended the wedding ceremony of Rao’s daughter.
Justice Ramana referred the matter to the CJI to list it before an appropriate bench.
Justice Sikri, who had represented CJI Gogoi on the high-powered committee headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi that controversially removed Alok Verma as CBI director on January 10, had not given any specific reason for withdrawing from hearing the case.
CJI Gogoi had recused himself from hearing the plea, saying he would be a part of the selection committee to choose the probe agency’s new chief.
The NGO in its petition has sought specific mechanisms to ensure transparency in the process of appointing the CBI director. It has alleged that Rao’s appointment was not made on the basis of recommendations of the high-powered selection committee.
According to the plea, the October 23 order appointing Rao interim CBI director was quashed by the top court on January 8 but the government “acted in a completely mala fide, arbitrary and illegal manner” to appoint him again in “complete contravention” of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act.
On January 10, Rao, additional director in CBI, was made interim chief till the appointment of a new director, after the removal of Verma.
The plea has sought a direction to the Centre to appoint a regular CBI director forthwith.
It has also 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 CBI director be properly recorded and made available to citizens in consonance with the provisions of the RTI Act.