After Controversy, CBI Could Get First Woman Chief

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New Delhi: Archana Ramasundaram, a woman IPS officer is among those in the running for Central Bureau of Investigation or CBI chief.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chief Justice of India JS Khehar and leader of second largest party, the Congress, in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, will meet on Saturday to decide on the top post. Ms Ramasundaram, said sources, could be a compromise candidate after the appointment of Gujarat officer RK Asthana as acting chief became controversial.

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If the PM-led panel of three picks Ms Ramasundaram, 59, a Tamil Nadu cadre officer of the Indian Police Service or IPS, she will be the first woman to head India’s premier investigation agency. She is currently the chief of the Sashastra Seema Bal or SSB.

Today’s meeting is taking place in the shadow of a Supreme Court petition by activist and famous lawyer Parshant Bhushan challenging the appointment of acting CBI director, RK Asthana, who took over in December, when Anil Sinha retired.

Mr Bhushan had alleged that Mr Asthana’s appointment violates guidelines as he is too junior and contends that an acting director cannot be truly independent. The petition also points out that RK Datta, the officer who was next in line for chief was moved out of CBI just two days before the Mr Sinha retired and the government had to appoint a new director.

While appointing Mr Asthana acting chief, the government said it had not been able to schedule a meeting of the panel that selects the next chief. Mr Kharge had written to the Prime Minister objecting to the appointment of the junior officer. The government has reportedly been keen to appoint Mr Asthana in the post, but as a 1984 batch Indian Police Service or IPS officer, he will only be eligible to be considered for CBI chief in 2019.

The new chief will be appointed for a two year term, and critics have alleged that the government wanted Mr Asthana to be acting chief till he was senior enough to move seamlessly into the role.

RK Datta, posted out of the CBI, is again back on the list of contenders, along with current Delhi Police Chief Alok Verma. Mr Bhushan has said in his petition that the Mr Datta, from the Karnataka cadre, is most qualified as he has had the longest experience in anti-corruption units.

The government had said that he had to be moved out of the CBI because he was too senior and deserved a special pay grade and so was being given charge of a financial terrorism unit in the Home Ministry.

Mr Asthana was one of the Gujarat officers handpicked fora move to Delhi when PM Modi took over in 2014.

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