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Supreme Court orders copies of CVC inquiry report to be shared with CBI director, Solicitor General and Attorney General; to hear matter on Nov 20

Caught in a bitter legal battle with the Centre over being divested of his responsibilities as CBI director, Alok Verma will, on November 19, file a detailed response with the Supreme Court on the findings against him by the Chief Vigilance Commission over complaints of his alleged misconduct and lapses.

The complaints include those filed by CBI special director Rakesh Asthana who has accused Verma of stalling certain crucial investigations, particularly those against RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav in the alleged IRCTC scam.

The Supreme Court, on Friday (November 16), directed that copies of the CVC inquiry report – prepared under supervision of the court’s retired judge, Justice AK Patnaik, be shared with Verma and gave the CBI director time till Monday (November 19) to file his response to the same. The court has also allowed copies of the report to be shared with Attorney General KK Venugopal and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.

The reports have to be handed over to the trio in sealed covers and cannot be made public until further directives by the court. The reply by Verma to the inquiry report also has to be furnished to the top court in a sealed cover. The court will hear further submissions in the case on Tuesday (November 20).

It may be recalled that Verma had moved the Supreme Court against the Narendra Modi government’s midnight decision of October 24 to send him on leave after divesting him of his responsibilities as the CBI director. The government had also taken a similar action against Asthana with whom Verma has been caught in an ugly feud. Verma had, in his petition before the top court, argued that the government’s rules were a flagrant violation of the DSPE Act which guarantees a two-year functional tenure to the CBI director and had maintained that the allegations made against him by Asthana were borne out of vendetta.

Asthana too has moved the top court challenging the government’s decision against him but the top court has, until now, refused to hear his petition. On Friday too, while Asthana’s counsel, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, insisted that the CBI special director’s petition must be heard and a copy of the inquiry report should be shared with him too because it was his complaint against Verma that was the “basis of the complaint in this present case”, Chief Justice Gogoi declined the request.

The top court bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice SK Kaul and KM Joseph had, on October 26, directed the CVC to complete its inquiry against Verma within two weeks under supervision of Justice (retired) AK Patnaik. The bench had also restrained interim CBI chief M Nageswara Rao from taking any policy decisions until further directions from the court.

On Friday, as the court resumed its hearing in the petition filed by Verma, the CBI chief’s counsel, senior advocate Fali Nariman urged the bench to direct that copies of the CVC inquiry report be shared with his client.

Objecting to Nariman’s request, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the CVC, told the court that even he had not seen the inquiry report and it was unfair to share the findings with the petitioner (Verma). However, Chief Justice Gogoi shot down Mehta’s objection while stating that it was “hard to believe” that he had not seen the CVC’s report.

The bench also observed that while charges against Verma had been mentioned in the report under four separate categories, some of these needed further investigation.

It is pertinent to note that during the two weeks of the court-monitored CVC investigation, Verma had been summoned by the vigilance commission several times for questioning but stridently refused all charges made out against him.

India Legal has learnt that in his reply to the CVC, Verma has maintained that Asthana’s complaints against him were the result of personal vendetta and that they were made to the vigilance commission after the CBI – under instructions from its director – began investigating the special director in graft cases linked to Hyderabad-based businessman (Sathish Babu Sana, now a self-proclaimed whistleblower in the scandal) and controversial meat exporter Moin Qureshi. Verma has also cast aspersions on the motivations of Chief Vigilance Commissioner KV Chowdary in creating hurdles for his smooth functioning as the CBI director. Verma has also claimed that Asthana was acting under instructions of a senior official in the Prime Minister’s Office (though the official has not been named) while seeking to tarnish his image.

Sources told India Legal that, during his depositions before the vigilance commission, Verma also objected to the trajectory that the CVC inquiry was following. He is said to have told Justice (retired) Patnaik, that while the top court directed for a probe against him on issues raised in Asthana’s August 24 complaint to the commission (in which the special director alleged that Verma was stalling the IRCTC scam probe), the CVC was instead keen on interrogating him on issues raised by Asthana in a subsequent complaint made on October 18 (alleging that Verma was the beneficiary of bribes from Sana – this letter was apparently sent after the CBI had already booked Asthana in an extortion case based on a statement made by Sana in front of a magistrate).

In his written submissions to the CVC inquiry team, Verma has also said that the commission “seems to be more keen to establish that Asthana is innocent” in the alleged extortion case filed by the CBI against its own special director.

Verma has made many more explosive claims in his rebuttal filed with the CVC and it remains to be seen if he maintains the same tenor while filing his response with the Supreme Court next week – a possibility which, sources close to him say, is highly likely.

— India Legal Bureau

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