Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi-led bench will hear the case of CBI director Alok Verma to decide if the government’s orders stripping him of his duties at the agency and appointing an interim chief in his place were in accordance with the law. Verma filed the writ petition under Article 32 of the Constitution of India, as per which individuals may seek redressal for any violation of their fundamental rights.
Top lawyers Fali Nariman and Sanjay Hegde will be representing Verma in the court.
Verma had filed a plea in the top court after an unprecedented internal feud between him and his deputy Special Director Rakesh asthana came out in the open and the government was forced to intervene in the matter sending the two on a forced leave.
Meanwhile, the government appointed M Nageshwar Rao the interim chief of the CBI. In his petition, Verma emphasised the need to allow the CBI “to function completely independently and autonomously”, but said: “There are bound to be occasions when certain investigations into high functionaries do not take the direction that may be desirable to the government.”
The SC will also hear the plea filed by Common Cause NGO by Advocate Prashant Bhushan. Common Cause’s PIL moved by Advocate Prashant Bhushan seeks SC monitored probe into the corruption allegations against CBI top officials.
It seeks the removal of Rakesh Asthana from the post of CBI Special Director in view of the recent FIR registered against him on allegation of acceptance of bribe to derail investigation against Moin Qureshi.
Common Cause further states that the new Interim Director M Nageshwara Rao is not fit for the job in view of corruption allegations against him. However, the probe agency on Thursday said Alok Verma continues to remain the director of the CBI, while Rakesh Asthana will continue as its special director.
According to CBI, M Nageshwar Rao will look after the duties and functions of the CBI director till the time Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) is deciding the case involving allegations and counter allegations between the top two officials of the agency.
Advocate Gopal Shankarnaryanan, appearing for the CBI Director Verma on Wednesday had sought urgent hearing and had also referred to the fact that the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) had taken the decision at 6 AM yesterday to divest Verma of his duties. Verma in his petition has stated that his removal from the post was “patently illegal”.
Highlighting the fact that a proper process of removal was not followed, the CBI director has made a case that for the removal or transfer of the CBI director, the Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) needs the approval of the high-powered committee — comprising the prime minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the Chief Justice of India — that appoints the CBI chief.
“The exercise of power by the impugned orders has been to bypass the mandate of the committee,” Verma said, referring to the orders of the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) and the CVC divesting him of his responsibilities at the CBI.
Every CBI director has a fixed tenure of two years secured under law and Verma has pointed it out under the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946. “This is precisely to secure the independence of the CBI, but the same has been violated by the impugned orders,” says the plea of Verma in SC.
The CBI director has also stated that CBI as an institution must be away from government influence. However, the recent act of government stripping him of powers point to a situation where there is a need for giving CBI separate independence than DoPT.
“The CBI ought to be insulated from the government. The present actions give serious credence to the requirement that the CBI be given independence from the DoPT, which seriously hinders the functioning of the institution,” Verma has stated in petition to be heard on Friday. Verma has prayed before the court to quash the orders of the DoPT and CVC divesting him of his duties at the CBI.
Even Rakesh Asthana has approached the Delhi High Court against the FIR lodged against him by the CBI alleging cases of corruption stating that under Section 17A of the Prevention of Corruption Act, a public servant like him cannot be slapped with a FIR before the government gives a nod.
However, Verma has mentioned Asthana too in the petition but has not named him. Verma had stated that the CBI special director posed “hurdles” at the CBI.
“Over the recent past, although all functionaries within the CBI… have agreed on a certain course of action, the special director has been of a different view,” says Verma in his petition.
Meanwhile, Congress president Rahul Gandhi is set to lead the party as it stages protests outside all CBI offices across the country on Friday, demanding reinstatement of CBI director Alok Verma, who has been sent on leave, and seeking an apology from Prime Minister Narendra Modi for “destroying” the image of the premier investigating agency. Gandhi tweeted he will lead the party’s protests outside the CBI headquarters in CGO complex in the national capital.
Tomorrow, outside CBI offices nationwide, the Congress party will protest the PM’s disgraceful attempt to prevent an investigation into the Rafale scam, by removing the CBI Chief.
I will lead the protests outside CBI HQ in Delhi, at 11 AM. #CBIRafaleGate
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) October 25, 2018
Leader of the Congress party in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge has also demanded answers from Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the action against CBI director Alok Verma without consulting other members of the panel that selected him.
In a strongly-worded letter to the prime minister, Kharge accused him of acting “arbitrarily” and creating a “false equivalence of charges” between the CBI director and his deputy Rakesh Asthana.
Kharge was part of a three-member panel headed by Modi that had selected Verma last year to head the CBI. The then Chief Justice of India Jagdish Singh Khehar was the other member of the selection committee.
He said that “no meeting of the selection committee was convened to deliberate on this issue as prescribed under law”. The Congress leader also accused Modi and his government of resorting to “snooping” on Verma to “cover-up” the Rafale ‘scam’.