Supreme Court rules that Selection Committee for the CBI director must meet within a week to decide on further orders against Alok Verma
The Supreme Court, on Tuesday (January 8), set aside the controversial October 23 midnight order of the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) used by the Narendra Modi government to send CBI director Alok Verma on leave after divesting him of all his responsibilities.
However, while the verdict does come as a major embarrassment for the BJP government, the fine print of the verdict does not clear Verma completely as the question of his continuance in office will be subject to a final decision to be taken – within a week – by the three-member selection committee comprising the Prime Minister, Chief Justice of India and Leader of Opposition which is mandated to appoint the CBI director or take any action that can curtail his otherwise protected fixed two-year tenure.
It is pertinent to note that the verdict of the apex court authored by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, which reinstates Verma but still bars him from taking “any major policy decision till the decision of the Committee permitting such actions and decisions becomes available within the time frame indicated”, has come days ahead of his superannuation, slated for January 31.
It is, however, unclear whether Verma, with his now curtailed administrative powers, would be able to quash the contentious decisions taken by Nageswara Rao who had been appointed interim CBI director by the CVC and the Modi government on October 23.
It may be recalled that Rao, soon after assuming office, had transferred out of Delhi all CBI officers who had been investigating CBI special director Rakesh Asthana in at least six corruption cases. These officers too have moved separate petitions before various jurisdictional courts challenging their transfers.
The graft cases against Asthana, who like Verma, was also sent on leave by the CVC on October 23, had become the flashpoint between him and his superior officer. The Centre, through finance minister Arun Jaitley, had repeatedly justified the decision of divesting Verma and Asthana of their respective roles and said that the action was taken “to protect the integrity of the country’s premier investigation agency” as its top two officers had become embroiled in a public spat.
Sources close to Verma and many from the Opposition, including Congress president Rahul Gandhi, had however slammed the Centre’s move against the CBI director, stating that he was sent on leave only because he was about to order a preliminary enquiry (PE) in the controversial Rafale Deal which has sunk the Modi regime in an abyss of embarrassment.
It remains to be seen whether Verma, after he resumes office, goes ahead with the PE in Rafale Deal. Such an action would, undoubtedly, humiliate the Modi government which has been spending all its time defending the deal even if it is the final order that Verma passes before demitting office.
READ THE DETAILED VERDICT HERE:
—India Legal Bureau