New Delhi, Feb. 14: The Supreme Court today asked the government to respond to a petition by 10 CBI officers who wanted a directive to fill all vacant posts in the premier investigative agency through "direct recruitment" so that it could work efficiently.
Half the officers in the central agency are now taken on deputation from outside Delhi, following a 2000 amendment that reduced direct recruitment through competitive civil service exams.
As of December 2012, there were 1,176 vacancies in the CBI out of a total sanctioned strength of 6,565. The number works out to nearly 18 per cent.
A bench of Justices G.S. Singhvi and H.L. Gokhale sought the Centre's response within four weeks on the PIL.
The petition ' filed by N.M. Singh, senior superintendent of police, special task force, CBI, and nine others ' said the government was deliberately keeping posts vacant to appoint 50 per cent of the officers on deputation from outside Delhi.
The agency has offices across the country but the appointment process is regulated from Delhi.
The plea, through counsel Kamini Jaiswal, said the "continuous years of deliberate successive neglect by the executive/Union of India has resulted in the continuance of large numbers of unfilled vacancies in the CBI".
The vacancies, the officers said, was "hampering" the agency from "fulfilling its lawful mandate under the criminal justice system and to the people of India" and sought an "intervention by this Hon'ble Court".
The officers also submitted that since the CBI was a specialised investigative agency, direct recruits were better equipped to do their job than those who were on deputation.
The petition has come at a time the CBI is investigating major scams, including the 2G spectrum controversy and the Commonwealth Games scandal.
According to the petition, several parliamentary committees specifically set up for the purpose of streamlining the CBI's functioning since 1990 had held that persistent vacancies in different ranks had affected the agency's efficiency.
These House panels, the officers said, had recommended filling up the posts through direct recruitment so that the agency could function smoothly and efficiently.
In October last year, the apex court had expressed concern at the large number of vacancies in different ranks. But despite the court's observation and the recommendations of the House committees, the government did not take steps to ensure that the agency could function independently and properly, the petition said.
The officers said the recruitment rules for senior police posts in the CBI were amended in 2000, and the subsequent reduction in intake of direct recruits through civil service exams by 50 per cent had "adversely" affected the agency's efficiency.
The PIL said this was "clear" from the "black money outflow" between 2000 and 2010. It said "organised gangs operating on account of a nexus between bureaucrats, politicians and criminals" were able to "siphon away" $123 billion from India during this period.
The officers sought to draw the court's attention to what they called the government's "malice" and its "deliberate, continuous, concerted and connected acts of omission and commission" to prevent the agency from discharging its duty "in accordance with the law".
It urged the apex court to direct the government to take immediate steps for direct recruitment to fill up the vacant posts, as the House panels had recommended, so that the CBI could function in a "self-sustaining, proper and efficient" manner.