New Delhi: Hours before the Selection Committee is set to decide on a name for the new CBI director, the hearing of a PIL in the Supreme Court on this issue got delayed after Justice AK Sikri withdrew himself from the proceedings.
Justice Sikri recused from hearing the petition by NGO Common Cause, expressing "predicament" and "personal reasons".
Justice Sikri was the CJI's nominee in the last meeting of the Selection Committee wherein Alok Verma was removed as the CBI director over an adverse report by the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC).
Justice Sikri had proved to be the deciding vote since he voted with Prime Minister Narendra Modi against Verma while leader of the single largest party in opposition, Congress's Mallikarjun Kharge, opposed the move.
The CJI, on Monday, had withdrawn himself from hearing the PIL against appointment of M Nageshwar Rao as the interim director, and for laying down fresh guidelines to pick the new director.
CJI Ranjan Gogoi had then disclosed that since he was going to participate in the meeting of the Selection Committee on January 24, he would not hear this case.
Earlier, CJI had nominated Justice Sikri for the meeting because the former had decided Verma's petition in the court.
On Thursday, as soon as senior advocate Dushyant Dave stood up to argue the matter on behalf of the NGO, Justice Sikri said that he cannot hear this case.
Although Justice Sikri did not mention specific reasons, it was evident that the judge was recusing because of his participation in the last meeting.
This left Dave livid. "Why couldn't my lord inform the registry a day in advance? The Chief Justice recuses first and when we come here, my lord is also not hearing us," complained Dave.
Justice Sikri replied that it was a judicial order by the CJI to place this order before him and therefore, registry could not have placed it elsewhere without a judicial order by the judge concerned.
At this, Dave pointed out that the meeting of the Selection Committee was scheduled for Thursday and the whole thing would mean nothing if a decision on the new director is taken.
"This Court showed urgency when it directed for a meeting of the Selection Committee. The government then showed urgency to remove Alok Verma. But when we come to this Court for directions, we don't even get a hearing," rued Dave.
Justice Sikri responded: "We agree with you that the issues raised are important and interesting but please understand my predicaments. I can't hear it. This will have to go to some other bench."
He added: "I wish I could hear this case but I can't".
Subsequently, the bench directed that this matter should be heard by a different bench on Friday, subject to the orders of the CJI.