Can the Union Government ‘Continue’ an Outgoing CBI Director?

The Supreme Court asked the Union Government to respond whether it can, in “exceptional circumstances”, continue with the outgoing Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Director rather than appointing an “Acting” chief.

It asked the Government that instead of an interim or an ‘Acting’ Director, CBI could continue with the incumbent until the high-powered selection committee comprising the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice of India and the Leader of the Opposition zeroed in on the next regular appointment.

The suggestion came while hearing a petition filed by NGO Common Cause, about how the law does not permit the Government to issue executive orders on its own, appointing interim CBI Directors.

The government had done it thrice since 2017. Such manoeuvres would hamper the functional autonomy of the elite probe agency that investigated several sensitive cases in the country.

The government has failed to appoint the Director of the CBI as per Section 4A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act of 1946 on the expiry of the term of the last incumbent, Rishi Kumar Shukla, on February 2, 2021

K. Jaiswal is the current CBI Director. The petition had said that an interim appointment through an executive order was not envisaged in the statutory scheme of the 1946 Act.

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