Justice (retired) AK Patnaik, who was asked by the Supreme Court to monitor the CVC probe into corruption allegations against Alok Verma, has sensationally revealed that he found no evidence of corruption against the sacked CBI Director.
Justice Patnaik was quoted by Indian Express, “There was no evidence against Verma regarding corruption. The entire enquiry was held on (CBI Special Director Rakesh) Asthana’s complaint. I have said in my report that none of the findings in the CVC’s report are mine.”
Justice Patnaik’s stunning disclosure assumes significance in light of the selection committee comprising Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Supreme Court judge Justice AK Sikri and Leader of Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge deciding to remove Verma from his post on Thursday. While Modi and Justice Sikri had voted in favour of removing Verma from his post based on the CVC report, Kharge was believed to have opposed his removal. To add insult to injury, Verma was later appointed as Director General, Fire Services and Home Guard.
However, the former CBI Director refused to accept his new role and quit from the service on Friday. In his resignation letter, Verma had said that the ‘natural justice was scuttled and the entire process was turned upside down in ensuring that the undersigned (Verma) is removed from the post of the Director.’
He also went on to write in his resignation letter that his removal from the post ‘will become a testimony on how the CBI as an institution will be treated by any government through the CVC, who’s appointed by majority members of the ruling government.’ “This is a moment of collective introspection, to state the least,” Verma wrote in his resignation letter.
Justice Patnaik too agreed as he told The India Express, “Even if the Supreme Court said that the high-power committee must decide, the decision (by PM led panel) was very, very hasty. We are dealing with an institution here. They should have applied their mind thoroughly, especially as a Supreme Court judge was there. What the CVC says cannot be the final word.”
Justice Patnaik’s words bring the role played by Justice Sikri in helping the government get rid of a seemingly upright CBI Director under a huge scanner. Justice Sikri was representing the Chief Justice of India in the committee and it was his decision to go with the Prime Minister that sealed Verma’s fate.
Later, former Supreme Court judge, Justice Markandey Katju, said that he had spoken to Justice Sikri, who defended his decision to favour Verma’s removal. In his Facebook post, Justice Katju wrote that ‘in view of these serious prima facie findings of guilt, and after perusing the material on which they were based, Justice Sikri was of the opinion that until the matter was fully investigated and a final decision given about the guilt or innocence of Verma, he should not remain on the post of Director, CBI but should be shifted to another post equivalent in rank.’
His Facebook post further quoted Justice Sikri as saying, “As regards the question of not giving a hearing to Verma, it is a settled principle that even suspension can be done without giving the accused a hearing, and suspensions pending enquiry are very common. It is only dismissal which cannot be done without a hearing.”
On 8 January, the Supreme Court had reversed the central government’s order dated 23 October to remove Verma from his post in a midnight swoop. While reinstating Verma in his post, the top court had also left it to the selection committee to decide his fate. Verma was investigating bribery charges against CBI’s Special Director Rakesh Asthana, who is accused of receiving Rs 3 crore to favourably settle the matter against meat exporter Moin Qureshi in a money laundering case. It was at Verma’s instruction that the CBI had filed an FIR against Asthana last year in the same case. The Delhi High Court on Friday refused to quash the FIR filed against Asthana.