CBI director Alok Verma — who was divested of all duties by the Centre and sent on leave following charges of corruption against him — told the Supreme Court on Thursday that he was appointed for a fixed tenure of two years and that he cannot even be transferred without an approval from the selection committee. Verma had been sent on leave along with CBI Special Director Rakesh Asthana following their public feud wherein Asthana had accused him of accepting a bribe in a case related to meat exporter Moin Qureshi.
Challenging the government's decision, senior advocate Fali Nariman, who was representing Verma, said that Verma was appointed on 1 February, 2017 and "the position of law is that there will be a fixed tenure of two years and this gentleman cannot be even transferred". Nariman referred to the terms and conditions of appointment and removal of the CBI director and concerned provisions of the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act, 1946.
Dushyant Dave, the counsel for the NGO Common Cause took over. Dave mentioned, "What you can't do directly cannot be done indirectly," in context of the government issuing a leave order instead of a transfer order to Verma.
Stressing on the fact that a third party cannot interfere in the functioning of the CBI, Dave said, "Selection committee alone has been entrusted both by Your Lordships and the Parliament to take such an action. Hence, this present order falls foul of rule of law." He also added that for the same reason, appointment of M Nageshwar Rao as interim director of CBI should also be set aside.
Common Cause has challenged the central government's decision to send Verma on leave. Dave made submissions on the scheme brought in by the Vineet Narain judgment for appointment and transfer of the CBI director and the necessity of the same. "In matters of discipline, CVC has no role to play," he told the court.
Earlier, the court while hearing Verma's plea seeking his reinstation in the agency, discussed the issue pertaining to media publication of materials which have been filed in court for a sub-judice matter.
Nariman referred to the Sahara judgment in this context considering that during the last hearing, the apex court has expressed dismay regarding publication of Verma's response to the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC).
Nariman said that the view in the Sahara judgment was that the media cannot be prohibited from publishing material which has been filed in court as he urged the top court to frame some guidelines or a circular regarding publication of court materials by the media. Nariman said that that it may not have been appropriate to have Sinha's petition to get published even before it was listed before the court.
However later, the court let go of this matter and moved on to the main issue of Verma's plea. Nariman then citing Vineet Narain's case regarding the appointment, functioning and the independence of the CBI officers, advanced his arguments to question the government's decision. Nariman said that the transfer of the CBI director should have been approved by the selection committee, referring to the aims and objectives of the CVC Act, 2003. "Stripping of charges is equivalent to transfer," Nariman said in court. "It is not that he cannot be transferred; He can be but it should be with the consent of the Committee.... If this is allowed, what happens to the autonomy and independence of the CBI," he asked. "The leave order will not stand without permission from the committee.... If there is any proposal to clip his wings, consent ought to have been taken from the committee," Nariman remarked.
Nariman submitted that the with effect from 2014, the appointment of the CBI director is to be done by a selection committee consisting the prime minister, the leader of the Opposition or the single largest party and the Chief Justice of India (CJI). Justice KM Joseph at this point asked Nariman: "What if the director is caught red-handed taking a bribe?" To which, Nariman replied saying, " Write immediately to the committee."
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Updated Date: Nov 29, 2018 14:37:44 IST