Supreme Court also calls for details of all policy decisions taken by interim CBI chief Nageswara Rao since he assumed office on October 24
The Supreme Court, on Friday (November 16), handed over to CBI director Alok Verma, in a sealed cover, the report of the inquiry conducted against him by the Chief Vigilance Commission (CVC) on various complaints made against him by the premier investigation agency’s special director Rakesh Asthana.
The apex court bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices SK Kaul and KM Joseph observed that while charges against Verma had been mentioned in the report under four separate categories, some of these needed further investigation.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta objected to the court’s order for sharing the inquiry report with Verma claiming that even he, despite being the counsel for the CVC, was not privy to the details of the investigation and thus the same should not be shared with Verma. However, Chief Justice Gogoi shot down Mehta’s contention, stating: “It is hard to believe that you, being the CVC’s counsel, have not seen the report.”
The court also declined to hear arguments made by senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for CBI special director Rakesh Asthana.
The bench has directed Verma to file his reply, through his counsel, senior advocate Fali Nariman, with the court by Monday. The case will come up for its next hearing on Tuesday. Copies of the inquiry report will also be shared with the Attorney general and solicitor General in sealed covers.
It may be recalled that the Supreme Court had on, November 12, said that it would take up the CVC’s inquiry report against CBI chief Alok Verma for further arguments on November 16. The report of the CVC – prepared under the supervision of retired Supreme Court judge, Justice AK Patnaik, had been submitted in a sealed cover to the top court’s registry earlier the same week following two weeks of investigations by the CVC during which Verma was summoned to the vigilance commission for interrogation on the complaints against him, including those filed by CBI special director Rakesh Asthana. Verma had, reportedly, denied all charges made out against him.
Verma was stripped of his duties and sent on leave by the Centre after the intra-office feud between him and Asthana dragged the country’s premier investigative agency through mud.
On October 26, the Supreme Court had set a two-week deadline for the CVC to complete the inquiry into the allegations against Verma. The top court had also restrained interim CBI director M Nageswara Rao from taking any policy decisions. It may be noted that hours after taking over as the interim chief, Rao had ordered a slew of transfers within the CBI, posting all officers investigating corruption cases against controversial Asthana out of the national capital. Officers seen close to Asthana, a 1984-batch Gujarat cadre officer known for his proximity to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah, were brought in to carry out the investigations pending against him in six corruption cases.
Verma had moved the Supreme Court against the government’s decision to send him on leave, arguing that the decision was a violation of the DSPE Act and the top court’s Vineet Narain judgment since these gave the CBI director a secured two year tenure. Verma’s stint as CBI director is set to end on January 19. Verma had also told the top court that his ouster was the result of certain investigations being carried out by the CBI, including those against Asthana, which had the potential of putting high officials of the Narendra Modi government in the dock. It has been speculated that the government’s decision against Verma was triggered by his move to initiate a preliminary enquiry in the controversial Rafale fighter jets deal which also is currently under challenge in the top court.
THIS STORY WILL BE UPDATED SOON
— India Legal Bureau