New Delhi: The Supreme Court is scheduled to pronounce on Tuesday its verdict on CBI Director Alok Kumar Verma’s plea against the Centre’s decision to divest him of powers and sending him on leave in view of the graft allegations against him.
The top court had reserved its verdict on Verma’s plea against the October 23 government order on December 6 after hearing arguments on behalf of Verma, the Centre, the CVC and others.
The decision by the Centre was taken in the wake of the feud between Verma and CBI Special Director Rakesh Asthana as they publicly made allegations of corruption against each other.
Verma has sought quashing of three orders of October 23, 2018 — one by the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) and two by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), as being without jurisdiction and in violation of Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution.
CBI’s Joint Director M Nageswara Rao, a 1986 batch Odisha-cadre IPS officer, was given the charge of interim chief of the probe agency.
The court had also heard the plea moved by NGO Common Cause which had sought a court-monitored SIT probe into the allegations of corruption against various CBI officials, including Asthana.
Verma’s two-year tenure as CBI director ends on January 31. He has moved the top court challenging the Centre’s decision.
The Centre had justified its decision to divest Verma of his duties and sending him on leave before the apex court saying he and Asthana were fighting like “Kilkenny cats”, exposing the country’s premier investigating agency to “public ridicule”.
Attorney General K K Venugopal had told the bench, also comprising Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph, that the Centre was well “within its right to intervene” and send both officers on leave by divesting them of their powers.
Venugopal had told the court 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.
The top court, in the last hearing on December 6, had pulled up the government for not approaching the selection committee before divesting Verma of his power and sending him on forced leave.
Questioning the government’s 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?”
Earlier, challenging the government’s decision, Verma’s counsel and senior advocate Fali S Nariman had argued that the CBI Director was appointed on February 1, 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 had said there was no basis for the CVC to pass an order recommending that Verma be sent on leave.