New Delhi: In yet another unprecedented move in the ongoing crises surrounding the CBI, the high-powered selection committee led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday removed Alok Verma from the position of agency’s Director.
Verma, whose fixed tenure of two years was to end on January 31, is the first chief in the 55-years of the CBI’s history to face such action, officials said.
He has been posted as Director General Fire Service, Civil Defence and Home Guards, under the Union Home Ministry. The charge of the CBI has been given to Additional Director M Nageshwar Rao, a government order issued on Thursday evening said.
There were eight counts of charges against Verma in the CVC report presented before the Committee also comprising Leader of Congress in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge and Justice A K Sikri, appointed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi as his nominee.
Verma’s removal comes two days after he was reinstated as the CBI chief by the Supreme Court which quashed the Centre’s October 23 order of sending him, along with deputy Special Director Rakesh Asthana on forced leave to stop the “kilkenny cat fight” between them.
The CVC Report And Corruption Charges
The eight counts of charges included alleged attempts to induct tainted officers, compromising probe in the Moin Qureshi case, IRCTC scam among others.
The CVC report spoke about the controversial meat exporter Moin Qureshi’s case and claimed that CBI team looking into the case wanted to make Hyderabad-based businessman Sathish Babu Sana an accused in the case but Verma never gave clearance.
Also Read: CBI SP Mohit Gupta to Probe Corruption Case Against Rakesh Asthana; Alok Verma Orders Transfers
The probe in this case was led by special director Rakesh Asthana, who along with Verma was sent on forced leave on October 23.
The CVC report also contained intercepts from the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), the external snooping agency, in which “money changing hands with number one in the CBI” is talked about, the officials said.
The CVC, which has a supervisory role over the CBI, had also alleged that Verma tried to save an officer in the IRCTC case involving former Union Minister Lalu Prasad.
The commission also alleged that Verma was trying to bring in tainted officials into the CBI. It claimed that efforts seeking cooperation from the CBI chief did not yield results as he continued to keep the files away from the CVC.
2:1 Decision of Selection Panel
The decision for the removal of 1979-batch IPS officer Verma was taken by a majority with Kharge opposing the move, they said.
The meeting of the committee was convened Wednesday which lasted nearly 30 minutes. It was convened again on Thursday at the residence of Prime Minister Modi at 7 Lok Kalyan Marg at around 4.30 PM.
The meeting continued for nearly two hours with Kharge strongly arguing for giving a chance to Verma to present his case before the committee on the allegations levelled by the CVC against him.
However, the Prime Minister and Justice Sikri did not agree with his position making clear his ouster from the agency.
Kharge gave a dissent note and told the meeting that Verma, who was sent on forced leave, should be given a chance to present his case before the Committee on the allegations in the CVC report against him.
He also said Verma should not be penalised and be given an extension of 77 days for which he was not allowed to attend the office, according to sources.
The Last 72 Hours
Hours before being removed from the post, Verma had ordered transfers of five officers, including two Joint Directors, one Assistant Director and two Deputy Inspector Generals (DIG).
Those transferred included Joint Directors Ajay Bhatnagar and V. Murugesan, DIGs M.K. Sinha and Tarun Gauba and Assistant Director A.K. Sharma.
Retaining the team probing the corruption case against Special Director Rakesh Asthana, Verma appointed 2006 batch IPS officer Mohit Gupta to take charge of the investigation after Deputy Inspector General M K Sinha requested to recuse himself.
Hours after resuming office on Wednesday, he revoked most transfer orders issued by agency’s interim chief M Nageswara Rao.
Verma was sent on forced leave by the government in a late-night controversial order on October 23, 2018 in the wake of a feud between him and his deputy Special Director Rakesh Asthana which had intensified after Asthana was booked on corruption charges by the CBI on October 15, 2018.
He had challenged the order in the Supreme Court which had quashed the government order Tuesday and reinstated him with a condition that the high-powered selection committee will decide his fate in a week.
Verma had joined the office Wednesday after 77 days of forced leave set aside by the Supreme Court.
The apex court had said any further decision against Verma, who was scheduled to retire on January 31, would be taken by the high-powered committee which selects and appoints the CBI director.
The Supreme Court in the Vineet Narayan judgment had fixed a minimum tenure of two years for the CBI director to give him immunity from any political interference. Later, through the Lokpal Act, the process of selecting the CBI director was handed over to a selection committee.
Oppn Attacks Govt Over Verma’s Ouster, BJP Hits Back
Reacting to the development, the Congress said, “By removing Alok Verma from his position without giving him the chance to present his case, PM Modi has shown once again that he’s too afraid of an investigation, either by an independent CBI director or by Parliament via JPC.”
Rahul Gandhi said that sacking of CBI chief Alok Verma twice showed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was a “prisoner of his own lies” and there was fear in his mind over the alleged corruption in the Rafale aircraft deal.
“Fear is now rampaging through Mr Modi’s mind. He can’t sleep. He stole 30,000 Cr from the IAF and gave it to Anil Ambani. Sacking the CBI Chief #AlokVerma twice in a row, clearly shows that he is now a prisoner of his own lies. Satyamev Jayate,” he tweeted.
Senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan saw a conflict of interest in the role of the Prime Minister, who is part of the three-member committee that also has Leader of the Congress group in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge and the CJI nominated representative Justice A.K. Sikri of the Supreme Court.
Hitting back at the Congress for attacking the Modi government over Verma’s ouster, the BJP called it a “sore loser”, saying the party has been left to lick its wounds “after failing to subvert the central probe agency by joining internal personal battles”.
“Sore loser Congress is licking its wounds after failing to subvert the CBI by joining internal personal battles. The only investigation pending is of ‘The Family’ that received bribes from ‘Mama Christian Michel’ in multiple defence deals. Lies of Rahul Gandhi completely exposed,” BJP spokesperson G V L Narasimha Rao said.
In a tweet, the BJP’s Rajya Sabha MP also added, “Shameless Congress lies again. Here are facts: 1) Shri Verma was given an opportunity to present his case before the CVC in presence of Justice Patnaik (retd), appointed by the Supreme Court. 2) Supreme Court also provided a copy of the CVC report to Verma’s advocate.
(With inputs from agencies)