New Delhi: A day after Justice A K Sikri of the Supreme Court turned down the post-retirement assignment proposed by the Centre, it has been reported he did not want to be a part of the PM-led panel which removed Alok Verma as CBI chief.

An NDTV report cited sources saying that Justice Sikri had conveyed his reluctance to the other two members – Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge.

According to the report, Justice Sikri told them that he did not want to be a part of the panel as it was a “pure executive function”.

A controversy broke out on Sunday over Justice Sikri getting a government offer last year for a post-retirement assignment at the London-based Commonwealth Secretariat Arbitral Tribunal (CSAT), three days after his vote, as a representative of CJI Ranjan Gogoi on the panel, helped decide the removal of Verma as CBI director.

Apparently stung by the controversy, Justice Sikri withdrew his consent to the government offer.

Targeted by several political leaders and activist-lawyers, Justice Sikri said he wants the controversy to “die”. “See I don’t want the controversy to be dragged. I want it to die,” he said.

On Monday, Justice Sikri, the senior-most judge after Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, maintained a safe distance from scribes but former Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi said he has been “unfairly targeted” by some political leaders and activist-lawyers.

“There is no connection between the two issues and people who don’t know the facts and circumstances under which the two things happened – giving consent for assignment at London-based Commonwealth Secretariat Arbitral Tribunal and his nomination by the CJI in the Prime Minister-led panel on the former CBI chief issue – are instrumental in making allegations which are utterly false and malicious,” Rohatgi said.

Criticising some activist-lawyers who had used social media to allegedly “malign” the judge, Rohatgi said “such people only want publicity without knowing the facts about the person whom they are speaking.”

“The issue was raised completely with mischievous intent to malign the judge. It is scandalous,” he said.

His view was shared by former high court judge Ajit Kumar Sinha and senior advocate Vikas Singh, who said it was “unfortunate” that some persons and activist-lawyers “mischievously” linked the two incidents.

They said Justice Sikri had given oral consent in December 2018 to the government offer to nominate him for president/member of the CSAT and the CJI nominated him in the PM-led panel after judgment in the Verma case in January 2019.

Justice Sikri’s vote proved decisive in removing Alok Verma from the CBI chief’s chair as opposition leader Mallikarjun Kharge was the only member with a dissenting vote in the three-member panel.

The decision to remove Alok Verma came just a day after he returned as CBI Director on the basis of a Supreme Court judgement, which had found his “overnight” divestment from office by the Central Vigilance Commission and the government wrong.