New Delhi: Joining the office 77 days after he was sent on forced leave by the government, CBI Director Alok Verma on Wednesday cancelled most of the transfers ordered by M Nageswar Rao, who was replaced by him as interim chief. Also Read - Sudarshan TV Row: 'Free Speech, Not Hatred,' Supreme Court Says Media Self-regulation System Toothless
Rao, during his tenure of around 3 months as CBI interim chief, had ordered transfer of 10 officers from Verma’s team. Also Read - 2021 Haridwar Kumbh: In a First, Number of Pilgrims to Be Restricted; Entry Passes to Be Issued
Verma and Asthana were sent on forced leave by the government along with Verma, through two separate orders issued on October 23, 2018 late evening. Also Read - Regulate Digital Media First: Centre Tells SC in Affidavit Filed in Response to Pleas Against Sudarshan TV
Upon his arrival at the CBI headquarters, Verma was received by Rao, officials said.
Then Joint Director M Nageswar Rao, a 1986-batch Odisha cadre IPS officer who was later promoted as Additional Director, was given the duties and functions of the CBI director late night on October 23, 2018 after Verma and Asthana were divested of their powers.
The next morning, Rao had issued seven transfer orders including those probing corruption case against Asthana, like DySP A K Bassi, DIG M K Sinha, Joint Director A K Sharma, among others.
On January 3, 2019 he had transferred officers of Joint Director Rank.
Verma issued two orders Wednesday “withdrawing” all the transfers done by Rao on October 24, 2018 and January 3, 2019.
In his expansive office on the 11th floor of the imposing glass and concrete CBI headquarters building, Verma also kept a keen ear on the developments related to meeting of high-powered selection meeting announced for the evening as a stream of senior officers kept him busy, officials said.
He remained in office till late night, they said.
In sending Verma on leave, the government overlooked the immunity given to the CBI director by the Supreme Court ensuring a two-year minimum tenure to protect the incumbent from any political interference.
The government tried to justify its decision, saying it became necessary amid an unprecedented feud between the two senior-most officials of the agency who had levelled charges of corruption on each other, an argument rejected by the apex court Tuesday.
In its order Tuesday, the Supreme Court set aside Verma’s forced leave but restrained him from taking any major policy decision till the CVC probe into corruption charges against him is over.
In the absence of any clear definition of “major policy” decisions, the grey area exists as to what extent Verma’s powers will be limited.
The apex court said any further decision against Verma, who retires 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.