Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Director Alok Verma on Wednesday moved the Supreme Court, challenging the government's orders stripping him off his duties at the agency and appointing an interim chief in his place.
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."
This is a significant remark, given the allegations that Verma was removed from his post for "asking too many questions" about the Rafale fighter jet deal.
Verma approached the Supreme Court amid an unprecedented controversy that the CBI is embroiled in, after being sent of forced leave. Amid the infighting between Verma and Rakesh Asthana, CBI special director and his second in command who was also sent on forced leave, the government appointed M Nageshwar Rao the interim chief of the CBI. The decision was made at a time when Verma was at loggerheads with Asthana, who was booked by the investigating agency in an alleged bribery case. Both Verma and Asthana, who is believed to be the "PM's favourite", were divested of their roles and responsibilities at the CBI late on Tuesday.
While the CBI officers investigating the bribery case involving Asthana were transferred, Verma filed a petition in the Supreme Court, in which he dubbed his removal from the post "patently illegal". He has contended 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, Leader of Opposition and 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.
Furthermore, citing the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946, Verma pointed out that the law "statutorily secures the two-year period of the director's tenure notwithstanding anything to the contrary". "This is precisely to secure the independence of the CBI, but the same has been violated by the impugned orders," Verma said in his Supreme Court petition.
"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," the CBI director said in his writ petition. "This insulation is only maintained by the high-powered committee that is sacrosanct and given express statutory mandate."
Referring to Asthana in his petition without naming him, Verma said the "hurdles" the special director has posed at the CBI "have now been compounded by his complicity in concocting evidence to impugn" his reputation. "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."
Verma has sought to have quashed the orders of the DoPT and CVC divesting him of his duties at the CBI, which he has referred to as "impugned orders" throughout his Supreme Court petition. "It is submitted that the impugned orders are manifestly arbitrary, sans natural justice and without due process," the CBI chief said.
"The petitioner (Verma) has the complete confidence of his officers within the organisation, and any illegal interference of this nature not only erodes the independence of the institution but also the morale of its officers. It is prayed that the impugned orders out to be stayed so that such external interference does not occur again," Verma prayed in his plea.
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.
Updated Date: Oct 24, 2018 17:59 PM