SC adjourns CBI hearing till Thursday: Centre had no choice but to intervene, argues Attorney-General KK Venugopal

The hearing in the case of CBI Director Alok Verma, challenging the divestment of all his powers in the agency, resumed on Wednesday in front of a Supreme Court bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and justices SK Kaul and KM Joseph.

FP Staff December 05, 2018 16:12:36 IST
SC adjourns CBI hearing till Thursday: Centre had no choice but to intervene, argues Attorney-General KK Venugopal

The hearing in the case of CBI director Alok Verma, challenging the divestment of all his powers in the agency, resumed on Wednesday in front of a Supreme Court bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices SK Kaul and KM Joseph.

Attorney-General KK Venugopal kicked off the arguments, submitting that decision of central government was with independent application of mind. "The Centre was conscious that any action should not result in eroding nation's faith in CBI," the attorney-general said. "The dispute between CBI director and special director was tarnishing the reputation of the institution." A situation had arisen where the Centre had to intervene and the decision to divest Verma was taken after careful examination, Venugopal added.

SC adjourns CBI hearing till Thursday Centre had no choice but to intervene argues AttorneyGeneral KK Venugopal

File image of Supreme Court. PTI

The central govt was very concerned about what was happening in CBI because two top officers were fighting with each other, Venugopal further added. They did not keep it under the wraps instead went public with it and the media had a field day, the attorney general said. Justice KM Joseph then asked the attorney-general — citing an article in The Telegraph —  whether there was any evidence of the CBI director going public about infighting.

Venugopal responded that there are a large number of reports regarding the infighting. Venugopal then argued that the action against Verma does not amount to 'transfer' as only his functions have been withdrawn. The apex court judgments define 'transfer' as change from one station to another, Venugopal further said, adding that Verma is retaining his designation, bungalow, and benefits. "If you ask 'Who is CBI director?', the answer is Alok Verma," Venugopal submitted.

"We referred to the Central Vigilance Commission, but the final decision was ours to make to normalise the situation, the attorney-general said.  The concept of superintendence is of wide ambit and the central government acted within its jurisdiction," Venugopal added.  It was absolutely essential for the Union of India to step in and act and we did so; how it would have ended otherwise, nobody can say, the attorney general told the bench. Justice Joseph then quizzed Venugopal on the power of superintendence of the Centre over the CBI. AG reiterated his earlier submissions and concluded his arguments.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta then began arguing on behalf of the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC). CVC is entrusted with the responsibility of superintendence over CBI, Mehta began, citing the Vineet Narain judgment to buttress his case. The CVC  has been given power of superintendence and power to give directions.

The only limitation is that in individual cases, it cannot give directions on how a probe should be conducted, SG Tushar Mehta. Not only does the CVC have jurisdiction, but it also would have been answerable to the President of India if it had not acted, Mehta said. The bench then adjourned the matter to Thursday.

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