Plea in SC challenges Alok Verma's removal as CBI chief, alleges 'conflict of interest' in Justice AK Sikri's position on selection panel

A fresh row is likely to erupt in the controversy surrounding the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), as a new petition was filed in the Supreme Court Wednesday questioning the way Alok Verma was sacked as the agency's director. Reports said the plea questions the Selection Committee's order as well as Justice AK Sikri's presence at the panel meeting at which Verma's future in the CBI was decided, News18 reported.

The petition filed by advocate ML Sharma claimed there were procedural violations in Verma's removal from the top CBI post. It also raises the issue of conflict of interest of Sikri — the most senior judge at the Supreme Court after Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi — being on the panel. "Justice AK Sikri should not have sat at the meeting after giving consent to the government for a post-retirement job," the plea said.

This was in reference to Sikri consenting to an offer by the Centre to be nominated to the Commonwealth Secretariat Arbitral Tribunal (CSAT). The government is believed to have offered Sikri the post-retirement job a month before he was appointed to the Selection Committee to decide Verma's fate as the CBI director. Sikri withdrew his consent after a furore over his appointment to the CSAT — a body that acts as the final arbiter of disputes between the 53 Commonwealth countries — after his retirement on 6 March. Furthermore, Sharma filed another petition in the Supreme Court challenging former CBI special director Rakesh Asthana's appointment to the Bureau Of Civil Aviation Security when an FIR levying corruption charges against him is still pending.

The Delhi High Court turned down Asthana's plea to quash this FIR against him. Sharma's plea demands Asthana be suspended till the corruption investigation against him is completed.

These developments come a day after the Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi recused himself from hearing a plea challenging M Nageswara Rao's appointment as interim CBI director. Gogoi recused himself from the case as he is participating in the meeting of the Selection Committee, which is expected to announce the next CBI chief Thursday. Prime Minister Narendra Modi heads the panel, which also comprises Leader of Congress in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge.

The post of the CBI director has been vacant since Verma was removed as the CBI director and appointed the director general of fire services at the controversial meeting of the Selection Committee on 10 January, at which Kharge dissented. This was two days after the Supreme Court reinstated Verma to the post.

After his removal from the post, Verma said the allegations against him were "false, unsubstantiated and frivolous". "It (the CBI) must function without external influences. I tried to uphold the integrity of the institution while attempts were being made to destroy it. The same can be seen from the orders of the central government and the CVC dated 23 October, 2018, which were without jurisdiction and were set aside," he had said.

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Updated Date: Jan 23, 2019 15:21:44 IST

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