Alok Verma resigns: CBI director's post is a perfect example of the maxim 'uneasy lies the head that wears a crown'
Former CBI chief Alok Verma braced a bitter and public battle with his number two, Rakesh Asthana during his tenure.
While Alok Verma's dismissal is likely to survive legal scrutiny, the move does puts in focus the crown of thorns the CBI chief must wear
Before Verma, his predecessor, Anil Sinha saw his share of ups and downs
Before him, Ranjit Sinha also saw a tumultuous tenure as he was criticised by the Supreme Court over his handling of the 2G scam
The BJP was accused of shunting out the CBI director unceremoniously by sending him on a forced leave, when the law guarantees him a fixed tenure of two years, ostensibly guarded from government interference. The ruling party assembled the requisite panel and fired Alok Verma nonetheless, this time after following a legal procedure. Within 24 hours of being reinstated to his post, Verma was transferred — this time with the approval of a proper selection committee — to the Director General's Office, Fire Services, Civil Defence & Home Guards for the residual period of 20 days before his tenure ends. He refused to take on the new charge and resigned.
Could the CVC and government have prevented the internal feud within the CBI from stretching on by stepping in earlier? Do the charges against Verma really warrant investigation? Or as Leader of Congress party and member of the selection committee Mallikarjun Kharge observed, was Verma's tenure cut short based on mere fragments of circumstantial evidences to meet political ends? These are questions that will be answered in due course of time.
The recent chain of events puts squarely in focus the crown of thorns the CBI chief must wear.
Verma braced a bitter and public battle with his number two, Rakesh Asthana during his tenure. He faced corruption allegations levelled by his deputy, and the two had reportedly clashed over appointments of favourites to the CBI. Verma finally saw his tenure being cut short only 21 days before he was due to retire.
Verma also saw unusual political realignments with the Congress opposing his appointment as CBI director in 2017, when it alleged that the government neglected CBI's senior most officer at the time Rupak Kumar Dutta to give the post to Verma. Later, the same Opposition party rounded to his side as it sought to take on the government over misuse of CBI. Kharge's was the only dissenting note in the selection committee that raised questions over the CVC report, which was made the basis for ordering his transfer.
Before Verma, his predecessor, Anil Sinha saw his share of ups and downs. While Sinha was hailed as a low-profile, hard working IPS officer at the time of his appointment, he later drew flak from the political circles and the media after it was revealed that Vijay Mallya had slipped through the hands of the CBI and had fled India, despite there being an FIR and a lookout notice against him. It was later revealed that the CBI downgraded the Lookout Circular (LoC) against Mallya from "detention" of the economic offender to "no risk" category, which eventually helped Mallya escape.
Before him, Ranjit Sinha also saw a tumultuous tenure as he was criticised by the Supreme Court over his handling of the alleged 2G scam. Ranjit Sinha was accused of attempting to interfere in the investigation and the prosecution of the 2G spectrum scam case.
Ranjit Sinha was at helm of affairs when the CBI received its infamous sobriquet of "caged parrot" from the apex court. The court had come down heavily on him over the probe in the coal scam cases, and for sharing the status report of the agency's investigation with the then law minister Ashwani Kumar.
Ranjit Sinha also faces an ongoing investigation by the very agency he once headed. The CBI, in 2017, had registered a corruption case against him on allegations of abusing his authority to scuttle inquiries, investigations and prosecutions in the coal block allocation cases.
He was also pulled up for the unusual visitors he hosted at his official residence. His visitors cited reasons like bringing "good quality chicken, mutton and fish", to training dogs, to fortune telling, to printing wedding cards, to "discussing politics with Mrs Sinha." However, it is quite a different matter that most of these visitors purportedly had links to various cases being investigated by the CBI at the time.
His predecessor AP Singh is also no stranger to controversies. Singh is being probed in the very corruption case that came back to haunt Verma and Asthana. A chargesheet filed by the Enforcement Directorate against businessman Moin Qureshi in October 2017 had alleged that he acted as an extortionist on behalf of former CBI directors Singh and Ranjit Sinha.
Most of these investigation trails are lying cold as the CBI faces massive pendency of cases, a huge staff shortage, and an ever-increasing burden of new cases. The only constant is the decreasing credibility of the institution as it remains mired in controversies.
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