In a huge embarrassment to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Supreme Court on Tuesday reversed the central government’s decision to remove CBI Director Alok Verma. It slammed the government for not referring to the Select Committee consisting of the Chief Justice of India, Prime Minister and Leader of Opposition to initiate Alok Verma’s removal.
The top court set aside order passed by government divesting Alok Verma of powers of CBI Director. Committee will have to consider matter afresh. The court said that the word “transfer” cannot be given its normal meaning adding that it has to be understood as encompassing acts affecting the functioning of the CBI Director.
The Supreme Court bench comprising CJI Ranjan Gogoi and Justices SK Kaul and KM Joseph, according to Liverlaw website, also directed the High Power Committee under Section 4(1) of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act to consider his case within a week. Till then, Verma cannot take any major policy decision regarding CBI. This effectively means that Verma will have no significant powers till his retirement on 2 February.
The judgement was authored by CJI Gogoi but was read out by Justice Kaul due to non-availability of the Chief Justice.
The Supreme Court said that it could not remain oblivious to the directions contained in Vineet Narain judgment. It said that that the directions of Vineet Narain case were incorporated into the statute. The DSPE Act did not enable the government to take any interim measure against the CBI Director.
The apex court also set aside the Centre’s decision to appoint senior IPS officer M Nageswara Rao, who was joint director, as the agency’s interim chief. With the verdict, the apex court has set aside the Centre’s October 23 decision divesting Verma as CBI chief and sending him on leave.
Verma’s two-year tenure as CBI Director ends on 31 January. He has moved the top court challenging the Centre’s decision.
Verma sought quashing of three orders of 23 October, 2018 — one by the 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.
Rao, a 1986 batch Odisha-cadre IPS officer, was given the charge of interim chief of the probe agency.
The Congress party said that it welcomed the Supreme Court’s order. Its tweet read, “We welcome the Supreme Court’s verdict lambasting the govt. against their illegal removal of Alok Verma as CBI Director. The SC has reinstated Alok Verma as director.”
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted, “SC reinstating CBI director Alok Verma is a direct indictment of the PM. Modi govt has ruined all institutions and democracy in our country. Wasn’t CBI director illegally removed at midnight to stall the probe in Rafale scam which directly leads to PM himself?”
Verma was removed from his post in October last year in a midnight coup after he initiated action against CBI’s Special Director Rakesh Asthana, a Gujarat-cadre IPS officer, who’s believed to be close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Verma was also believed to have sought papers related to the Rafale deal, reportedly wanting to initiate a probe into questions raised by former union ministers, Arun Shourie and Yashwant Sinha and lawyer Prashant Bhushan.