CBI'gate': Centre removed Alok Verma to protect 'PM favourite' Rakesh Asthana, says Opposition; Prashant Bhushan says move 'illegal'

The central government's move to remove the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) chief Alok Verma on Tuesday night and the transfer of 13 CBI officials on Wednesday following the infighting in the top investigative agency has led to a furore, drawing sharp reactions from the Opposition.

Senior Congress MP Veerappa Moily said alleged that the "CBI has been politicised" and that the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) was "misusing his agency". "The CBI has lost its credibility and the act of appointment and removal by the government is very arrogant," he told the media.

Whereas, senior advocate and activist Prashant Bhushan said that since the CBI director's minimum tenure is of two years, he "can't be removed prematurely by the government". "In order to protect Rakesh Asthana, they (the BJP Govt) have decided to remove Verma," Bhushan told the reporters outside court.

Earlier, Bhushan had tweeted that "as feared and suspected, the government has removed the CBI director from his charge, because he was pursuing corrupt special director Rakesh Asthana who was foisted on the CBI by the PMO despite him being investigated by the CBI itself in corruption cases." "Totally illegal. Will be Challenged," he had said.

After the government order directing the transfer of CBI officials came, Bhushan again took to Twitter and said, "Immediately after illegally removing the CBI director, Alok Verma and illegally appointing tainted officer Nageshwar Rao as the acting director, the entire ACB team particularly those investigating the PMO's blue eyed boy Asthana, are being replaced with alacrity! It is Modi's CBI Gate," he alleged.

Meanwhile, social media reactions poured in from other political quarters as well. West Bengal chief minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee tweeted, "CBI has now become so-called BBI (BJP Bureau of Investigation) - very unfortunate!"

Whereas, Delhi chief minister and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) chief Arvind Kejriwal wondered if "there was a correlation between the Rafale deal and the removal of Alok Verma". "Is there a co-relation between Rafale deal and removal of Alok Verma? Was Alok Verma about to start investigations into Rafale, which could have become a problem for Modi ji (sic)? What are the reasons for sending CBI director on leave? Under which law did the Modi government get the authority to initiate action against the chief of an investigating agency appointed as per the Lokpal Act ? What is Modi government trying to hide ?", Kejriwal questioned over Twitter.

CPM leader Sitaram Yechury too blamed the government for making a mockery of the chief investigation agency of the country and said that "the illegal removal of the CBI chief by the Modi government points to a serious cover-up attempt by it to protect their own handpicked officer, against whom serious charges of corruption are being investigated."

"The Modi government and the prime minister have conducted a political coup against the CBI. They have conducted the transfer of all the officers and directors, the and main objective appears to be to protect the chosen officers of the prime minister posted at the CBI," Yechury tweeted.

"Recent happenings in the premier investigating agency of the country, the CBI, show the degree of damage that is being caused by the present BJP government at the Centre to Constitutional authorities and institutions of parliamentary democracy in India," he added.

Meanwhile, the Congress party has also launched an all-out attack against the government on this issue. The official Congress handle on Twitter posted a tweet questioning the government's decision and lamenting that how the people of India are "the only losers — having lost another institution to the deplorable autocratic antics of the BJP government."

Congress chief Rahul Gandhi tweeted: "CBI chief Alok Verma was gathering the documents of the Rafale Scam and he has been sent on a forced leave. The prime minister's message is very clear, whosoever will question the Rafale deal will be removed and wiped out. The country and the Constitution are in danger."

Congress's senior spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi too launched an attack on the government saying that the "central bureau of infighting" has made India "hang its head in shame". "Entire reason for insulating the CBI director post was to preclude normal executive interference for transfer or sacking. ... Asking the director to go on a leave during an active corruption investigation is a grave violation of the law," he tweeted. "The government is going all out to protect it’s blue eyed favourite," he alleged.

Congress MP Shashi Tharoor also raised fingers on the credibility of the CBI saying that, "The sordid goings-on that have reduced the nation’s premier investigative agency into a Keystone Cops operation — one more nail in the coffin of India’s once-prestigious institutions, all reduced by the Modi government to shadows of their former selves."

While, another Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala tweeted that, "Prime Minister Modi has demonstrated the true colour of his infamous ‘Modi Made Gujarat Model’ by this cloak-and-dagger mugging of CBI. Has the CBI director been sacked for his keenness to probe the layers of corruption in the Rafale scam? Isn’t the rest a shoddy cover up? Let PM answer!"

"We have always maintained that the government is misusing CBI and other agencies. The very people who were being used to harass people are now being investigated. This move raises questions on the functioning of the PMO, alleged Congress's Mallikarjun Kharge.

Congress leader Manish Tewari also raised objections to the government's decision to curtail the CBI chief's tenure without a meeting involving the prime minister, the Chief Justice of India (CJI) and the leader of the Opposition or the single largest party. "In terms of both the Lok Pal Act and the Supreme Court judgment in Jain Hawala case - the CBI director has a fixed tenure of two years. The government can not curtail tenure/take interim measures without a meeting of a committee consisting of the prime minister, the CJI and the leader of the Opposition/single largest party," he tweeted.

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Updated Date: Oct 24, 2018 15:33:29 IST