Supreme Court Judge Justice N V Ramana on Thursday recused himself from hearing a petition challenging the Centre's decision to appoint M Nageswara Rao as interim CBI Director saying he had attended the wedding of the IPS officer's daughter.
He became the third judge of the apex court to recuse himself from hearing the matter after Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi and the second senior-most judge in the top court Justice A K Sikri. Both had recused themselves earlier from adjudicating the case.
On January 10, Rao, additional director in CBI, was made the interim chief of the agency till the appointment of a new director, after IPS officer Alok Kumar Verma was removed from the post of CBI Director by a high-powered committee headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The plea filed by NGO Common Cause, which has challenged Rao's appointment as interim CBI Director, came up for hearing on Thursday before a bench comprising Justices N V Ramana, M M Shantanagoudar and Indira Banerjee.
"I am recusing myself because I know him (Rao) as he is from my home state," Justice Ramana said.
Senior advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for the NGO, said, "Should I go to the Delhi High Court? Every judge in the Supreme Court is recusing himself from hearing the matter."
To this, Justice Ramana observed, "If the issue was not about M Nageswara Rao, I would have heard it. I had attended his (Rao) daughter's marriage. His (Rao) son-in-law is a practising advocate. I know him also."
Dave then said that the bench should ask the registrar to list the matter before another bench on Friday.
To this, Justice Ramana said that listing of the case is the prerogative of the Chief Justice and the matter would be placed before the CJI for listing it before an appropriate bench.
Earlier, CJI Gogoi had recused himself from hearing the plea, saying he would be part of the Selection Committee for choosing the probe agency's new chief.
Thereafter, the matter came up for hearing on January 24 before a bench headed by Justice A K Sikri.
Justice Sikri, who had represented CJI Gogoi in the committee, which removed Verma as CBI director on January 10, recused from hearing the case without giving any specific reason.
"You understand my position. I can't hear this matter," Justice Sikri had said.
The high-powered committee to select the CBI Director comprises the prime minister, the leader of the largest opposition party and the CJI or his nominee judge of the apex court.
Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge, who is a member of the high-powered selection panel, had said yesterday that the committee's next meeting would take place on Friday.
The last meeting of the committee took place on January 24 but it remained "inconclusive".
In its petition in the apex court, the NGO 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 the recommendations of the Selection Committee.
The plea has alleged that the October 23 last year order of the government appointing Rao as interim CBI director was quashed by the top court on January 8 but the Centre "acted in a completely mala fide, arbitrary and illegal manner" to appoint him again in "complete contravention" of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act.
It has sought a direction to the Centre to appoint a regular CBI director forthwith.
The plea 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.