The fresh approach used in the selection of senior IPS officer S.K. Jaiswal, the current head of the CISF, as the new director of the CBI, commends itself.
In the selection meeting last Monday, the Chief Justice of India, N.V. Ramana, who is on the three- member panel to choose the CBI chief, besides the PM and the Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha, proposed that a Supreme Court judgment of March 2019 — that an officer should have at least six months’ service remaining in order to be considered for the position of DGP — be extended to the post of CBI director as well. The panel accepted the view.
It is to be hoped that the criterion will henceforth be adopted in selecting the chief of the IB and the R&AW as well. In the case of the appointment of the CBI Director, the government could well have taken shelter behind the CVC Act if it wished to torpedo the CJI’s well-considered suggestion.
But the notion is ipso facto sound. In too many cases, officers are selected for top slots with only days, weeks, or a couple of months remaining before their superannuation. This reinforces the impression of favouritism, the absence of neutrality at the highest levels of governance, and gives rise to the undue play of political factors. The ideals of transparency and fair play are undermined. In the event, the country is frequently deprived of the services of the most meritorious amongst those available.
The CBI chief has an assured two-year tenure. This is to reinforce the idea of autonomy and independence in decision-making in so sensitive a position. It is bad enough that the CBI has widely come to be seen as “a caged parrot” — the colourful description once supplied by the Supreme Court. It is now up to its new leader to disabuse us of this impression.
When the high-level panel accepted the CJI’s suggestion, two high-profile officers, who had less than six months’ service left but were deemed close to the powers-that-be, were taken out of contention. For reasons of good governance, this is just as well.