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Alok Verma removed as CBI chief: Mallikarjun Kharge's dissent guided more by political rivalry than legality

The removal of ousted CBI chief Alok Verma was approved by two members of the three-member Selection Committee that consisted of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Leader of Opposition (LoP) in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge and Justice AK Sikri of the Supreme Court, who was nominated by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi. While Modi and Justice Sikri agreed on Verma’s transfer from the post, Kharge has vehemently dissented the decision.

A detailed scrutiny of the objections and points raised by Kharge in favour of Alok Verma shows that the dissent is guided more by his role of ‘political opposition’ to the government than any sound legal reasoning.

Before getting into the rebuttal of Kharge and Congress’ points of dissent, it is important to note Kharge had earlier dissented the appointment of Verma as CBI chief by the same Selection Committee which has now removed Verma.

Further, the argument made by Kharge and Congress that Verma should have been given a chance to represent his case before the Selection Committee falls flat on legal and procedural grounds. Verma has been ‘transferred’ and not ‘dismissed’ from his service.

 Alok Verma removed as CBI chief: Mallikarjun Kharges dissent guided more by political rivalry than legality

File image of Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge. PIB

Kharge, to substantiate his point, needs to show which service rule provides for an officer to be given a chance to present his/her case against his/her transfer before the competent authority decides so. Also, it should be noted that the meeting of the Selection Committee was not akin to that of a trail by the court of law, where new witnesses and testimonies can be allowed.

In the highest appellate court of the land, the Supreme Court also, a case is decided on the existing evidence and witnesses. And in this case, the Selection Committee was the final authority to decide Verma’s case and not a trail court that could have given Verma a fresh chance to present his case.

According to Section 4B — which states the terms and conditions of service of the CBI director — the director shall, notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in the rules relating to his conditions of service, continue to hold office for a period of not less than two years from the date on which he assumes office, and the director shall not be transferred except with the previous consent of the committee that consists of the prime minister, Leader of Opposition and the Chief Justice of India.

In this case, the said committee has given its consent.

The fact is that the LoP should take into account that Selection Committee based its decision on the recommendations of the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) that carried out the probe under the supervision of Justice AK Patnaik, who was appointed by the chief justice itself.

On Tuesday, when the Supreme Court ‘reinstated’ Verma to his post, Congress and its president Rahul Gandhi lauded Supreme Court for the decision. If seen from a wider perspective, it is the vote of the Supreme Court only that led to the ouster of Verma.

A point that everyone will agree on is that it was the casting vote of Supreme Court judge AK Sikri that swung the decision of the panel against Verma, which otherwise would have drawn a totally different result.

It was obvious that the prime minister’s vote would be against Verma and Kharge’s vote would be cast in favour of the ousted CBI chief.

It was Justice Sikri’s vote (the representative of the judiciary) that was to decide Verma’s fate. Now questioning the Committee’s decision is akin to raising questions on the judiciary also — the same judiciary which was heaped with praises on 8 January by the Congress whose leader in Lok Sabha happens to be Mallikarjun Kharge.

In his dissent note, Kharge had pointed out the fact that in the report submitted by the CVC to the apex court, CVC “does not arrive to any conclusive or substantial findings with respect to the various allegations against Shri Alok Verma."

Out of the 11 allegations he has cited in the dissent note, in four cases, allegations have not be substantiated. It is stated that further inquiry is needed. In one case, the allegation is partially substantiated and re-investigation by a different branch of CBI is recommended. In one case, allegations are substantiated and in another, it is said that allegations have been found true. In four cases, allegations have been categorically said to be ‘not substantiated’ and no further inquiry is recommended.

In one case, the allegation is substantiated and is stated that it “amounts to serious misconduct and warrants disciplinary and other actions”. The case in which the allegations are partially substantiated and requires re-investigation pertains to “failure to take action in gold smuggling case at IGI Airport”. The case in which allegations were found to be substantiated pertains to “attempts to induct tainted officers in CBI”. The case in which allegations require further investigation pertains to “undue interference in CBI cases against ED officials”.

The case in which allegation is substantiated and amounts to serious misconduct and warrants disciplinary and other actions pertains to “exclusion of suspect from being named as accused in FIR IRCTC case”. The case in which allegations are found to be correct pertains to “inordinate delay in finalizing investigation report in bank fraud case against main accused, indicating favoritism towards the main accused”.

In the dissent note, Kharge points out that in criminal charges, the case should be proved beyond reasonable doubt. True, but this is not a case which is being heard in a court of law nor has Verma been convicted of corruption. It is a case of alleged corruption and consequential disciplinary action. And when bereft of politicking, anyone would agree that all procedures were followed in deciding on Verma’s transfer.

Even if the case is treated as a criminal trial, there are numerous cases to prove that circumstantial evidence has been taken into consideration in awarding harshest punishment.

The dissent, to a great extent, suggests that a decision will be acceptable and appreciated only if it is in accordance with the wishes of LoP without any regard to established law and procedure.

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Updated Date: Jan 11, 2019 22:12:42 IST