SC hearing on CBI director Alok Verma's plea seeking reinstatement begins; CJI-led bench to consider his sealed response to CVC
The Supreme Court hearing on CBI Director Alok Verma's plea challenging the government's order divesting him of his duties and seeking his reinstatement to the agency has begun.
The Supreme Court hearing on CBI Director Alok Verma's plea challenging the government's order divesting him of his duties and seeking his reinstatement to the agency has begun. A three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and KM Joseph is hearing Verma's plea challenging the Centre's decision to send him on leave in view of the corruption allegations levelled against him.
As the apex court had expressed displeasure over Verma's response to the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) being leaked to the media at the last hearing, his battery of lawyers was changed ahead of the hearing. While senior advocate Fali Sam Nariman will continue to represent Verma, his junior lawyers have been replaced. Last Monday, advocate Gopal Shankaranarayanan had withdrawn as the junior counsel for Verma in the case.
The Supreme Court bench headed by the CJI is likely to consider Verma's response, submitted in a sealed cover, on the findings of the CVC in the preliminary inquiry against him. The bench is also likely to consider the report of acting CBI director M Nageshwara Rao, also filed in a sealed cover, with regard to the decisions made he made from 23 to 26 October.
Besides the plea filed by Verma, the court will also hear the PIL filed by NGO Common Cause, which has sought a probe by a Special Investigation Team against CBI officers.
On 20 November, the apex court had expressed deep anguish over the purported leak of Verma's response to the CVC's findings against him as well as the publication of allegations levelled by the agency's Deputy Inspector General Manish Kumar Sinha in a separate plea. The court had made it clear that it would not hear any party and would confine itself to the issues it has red-flagged.
Miffed over the alleged leak of Verma's confidential response to the CVC's findings, the court had said it wanted to keep the CBI director's response confidential to maintain the agency's dignity. While adjourning the hearing for Thursday, the court had taken umbrage to various media reports based on Sinha's petition levelling allegations against various top CBI functionaries.
In his plea filed on 19 November, Sinha had dragged the names of National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, Union minister Haribhai Parthibhai Chaudhary and CVC KV Chowdhury over alleged attempts to interfere in the probe against CBI Special Director Rakesh Asthana, who was also divested of his duties along with Verma and sent on leave.
The court had earlier issued notices to the Centre, CBI, CVC, Asthana, Verma and Rao, asking them to respond to it by 12 November. The CVC had on 12 November filed in the apex court its preliminary enquiry report. The allegations have been levelled against Verma by his deputy Asthana, against whom an FIR has been lodged by the CBI on graft charges. Asthana was also sent on leave by the Centre.
The court had taken both the reports (CVC and Rao) on record on 12 November. The CVC probe against Verma was supervised by former Supreme Court judge AK Patnaik and the investigation was completed on 10 November. The court had earlier directed the CVC to conduct an inquiry into the allegations made in the 24 August note/letter of the Cabinet Secretary with regard to Verma. Asthana has also moved the apex court with a separate petition in the matter and has sought removal of Verma from the post of CBI Director.
On 4 November, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge had moved the top court contending that divesting Verma of his statutory powers and functions is "completely illegal and arbitrary". In an interlocutory application filed in the pending petition, Kharge, who is also a member of the three-member selection committee which appoints the CBI director, said that "as a concerned stakeholder he brings to the attention of the court the brazen and illegal actions" of the political executive in interfering with the independent functioning of the CBI Director.
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