NEW DELHI: After Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi recused himself from hearing a petition against the appointment of Nageshwar Rao as interim CBI Director, Justice A.K.Sikri recused himself today from hearing the petition.

Senior advocate Dushyant Dave appearing for the petitioners and RTI activist Anjali Bhardwaj expressed their despair that the petition would not now get a hearing before the meeting, scheduled today, of the committee appointed to select the new Director of the CBI.

Speaking to The Citizen, Bhardwaj, who is a co-petitioner in the PIL said, “We hoped the court would give directions today to solve this issue and direct this government to put out the information about who has been shortlisted and why.”

“Unfortunately, since the court did not hear the matter again today, it has led to a situation where the selection committee will meet without any directions from the court for transparency and accountability. This is very damaging in a democracy,” she added.

Justice Sikri’s withdrawing from the case sent a “wrong message”, Dushyant Dave told the court. “It seems you don't want to hear the case… This court goes out of its way when it comes to the removal of Alok Verma, but when it comes to the new appointment, it is not inclined to hear,” Dave said.

“I have my predicaments,” Justice Sikri replied.

Justice Sikri was part of the High-Powered Committee which took the decision to remove Alok Verma as CBI Director, two days after the Supreme Court directed the government to reinstate him.

It was after removing the reinstated Verma that the government appointed Nageshwar Rao as interim director.

Earlier, CJI Gogoi had himself recused from hearing the matter, saying he was part of the committee which will decide on the next CBI Director today, January 24. The matter was therefore assigned to a bench headed by Justice Sikri.

The petition filed by Common Cause states that the appointment of Nageshwar Rao was not made on the basis of recommendations of a high-powered selection committee as mandated under the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act.

Common Cause said it was “illegal, arbitrary, malafide and in violation” of the Act. It sought a direction to the government to appoint a regular director of the CBI as per the rules of the Act.

Bhardwaj also alleged that the government was not following a transparent process in appointing the CBI Director. As per the petitioners, the government cannot be given charge of appointing a CBI Director without the recommendations of a high-powered committee.

So, the government order giving Rao charge as CBI Director is illegal and against the appointment procedure outlined in Section 4A of the DSPE Act, the petition states.