The Supreme Court bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi deferred its hearing into the petition filed by CBI Director Alok Verma against his dismissal from his post till Wednesday. During Thursday’s hearing, Verma’s lawyer had made his arguments highlighted how the Centre’s Narendra Modi government had committed a breach by removing Verma from his post unilaterally.
Verma was removed from his post hours after he had reportedly asked for papers related to the Rafale deal, where PM Modi himself is facing serious allegations of financial misconduct. Verma was also investigating CBI’s Special Director Rakesh Asthana, a Gujarat-cadre IPS office, believed to be very close to Modi.
On Thursday, Verma’s lawyer Fali Nariman made passionate arguments against his client’s dismissal in the Supreme Court.
In the last hearing, the top court had angrily adjourned the matter expressing its displeasure over the leak of Verma’s response to the CVC’s probe report in the media. However, on Thursday, CJI Gogoi said that the bench will provide full hearing to all parties.
The hearing today was briefly suspended after lunch due to the sudden power outage. Right in the middle of Attorney General KK Venugopal’s submission. Solicitor General Thushar Mehta had to swiych on his mobile phone torch for the AG to read out a paper.
At one point, CJI Gogoi also asked Kapil Sibal and Nariman if they felt that CBI Director could not be removed, suspended, replaced or ‘whatever it be, without going to the Committee( consisting of CJI, PM and the leader of the opposition). Sibal replied, “That is precisely my argument.” Nariman too said, “That is my argument too.”
Among other interesting development during the hearing on Thursday, when Rajeev Dhawan, who’s representing CBI officer AK Bassi, started his argument, CJI asked, Who are you?” Dhawan replied, “I am Bassi, who your lordship asked to enjoy at Port Blair (during last hearing).” Justice Joseph, according to LiveLaw website, asked, “You were till then investigating that Special Director (Rakesh Asthana).” “I was”, said Dhawan.
Here are today’s highlights from the hearing;
- The bench adjourns the hearing till Wednesday next week. CJI Gogoi says that the bench has not yet examined the CVC probe report on Verma adding that it will look into it if it was necessary, and in that case all parties will be given opportunity to respond.
- “The Govt intervention was to protect the public confidence in CBI, which was getting negative in view of the serious fight between two of its top officials. Govt intervention was in public interest,” says AG.
- If CVC’s power of superintendence only extends to investigation, superintendence over “all other matters” rests with Govt. In that case, should not the order of divestment come from Govt and not the CVC- LiveLaw
- If administration and supervision power is with Central Government, how did CVC pass the order against CBI Director-LiveLaw
- AG says that action taken against Verma does not amount to transfer. Divesting of charges falls within the powers of Central Government. This was in response to Nariman’s argument claiming that the Centre’s action did amount to transfer.
- If the power to appoint is with the committee, the power to remove is also with the committee. If this has happened to CBI Director, this may happen to CVC also. It can happen to Election Commission also. Central Government does not have power to remove CBI Director.
- Justice K M Joseph asks Nariman, “Suppose a CBI Chief is caught red handed accepting bribe, should the Committee be approached for taking action against him? Should such a person be permitted to continue even for a minute.” Justice Joseph refers to Article 317(2) of the Constitution which empowers President to suspend UPSC member against whom a reference for removal has been made to SC. Nariman answers Justice Joseph’s query that Committee has to be approached in such cases as well