New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday pulled up the government for not approaching the selection committee before divesting CBI Director Alok Verma of his power and sending him on forced leave.
“Government has to be fair, what was the difficulty in consulting the selection committee before divesting Alok Verma of his power? Essence of every government action should be to adopt the best course,” CJI Ranjan Gogoi said.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said Attorney General K K Venugopal told it that circumstances culminating in the situation started in July.
Questioning the government’s October 23 decision, the three-judge bench said, “Fight between the two senior most CBI officers did not emerge overnight so why did government take immediate steps to divest the CBI Director Alok Verma of his powers without consulting the Selection Committee?”
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Verma has contended before the top court that he was appointed for a fixed tenure of two years and cannot even be transferred. He lawyer F S Nariman had cited the Vineet Narain decision, delivered by the apex court in 1997, relates to the investigation of allegations of corruption against high-ranking public officials in India.
“It is better to consult the Selection Committee than not to consult. It is not only a question of adherence to law but better adherence to law,” the bench told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the government.
Making submission for the CVC, Mehta said that the selection committee had come to the conclusion that an extraordinary situation had arisen and that extraordinary situations sometimes need extraordinary remedies.
Explaining scope of power of superintendence by CVC over CBI under Section 8 of CVC Act, Mehta maintained that it would have been a “dereliction of duty” had the committee not acted.
The CBI director and the special director were fighting like “kilkenny cats”, exposing the country’s premier investigating agency to “public ridicule”, the government told the Supreme Court on Wednesday while justifying the decision to divest Verma of his duties.
Attorney General (AG) K K Venugopal also told the top court that the government was well “within its right to intervene” and send both officers on leave by divesting them of their powers.
The top law officer asserted that “only the God knows where and how this fight between the two top officers would have ended” if the government would not have taken the action which was aimed at restoring the public faith in the CBI.
Earlier, the government had maintained before the court that the government is empowered to appoint the CBI Director and that the selection committee can only recommend them.