SC ques­tions sud­den re­moval of Alok Verma

Financial Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - FC BU­REAU

THE Supreme Court on Thurs­day re­served its judg­ment on the re­moval of Alok Verma as the CBI di­rec­tor by the gov­ern­ment fol­low­ing a feud be­tween him and deputy spe­cial di­rec­tor Rakesh Asthana. The gov­ern­ment had in­ter­vened after the two war­ring of­fi­cers lev­elled se­ri­ous charges of cor­rup­tion against each other. Verma was sent on leave in Oc­to­ber, along with his deputy Asthana.

Dur­ing the course of hear­ing on Thurs­day, the Cen­tral Vig­i­lance Com­mis­sion (CVC), which had re­ceived the cor­rup­tion com­plaints, told the top court that ex­tra­or­di­nary sit­u­a­tions need ex­tra­or­di­nary reme­dies, jus­ti­fy­ing the un­prece­dented move to re­move the two se­nior of­fi­cers.

Chief Jus­tice Ran­jan Go­goi, how­ever, ques­tioned the move to re­move Verma sud­denly on the night of Oc­to­ber 23 and asked why the gov­ern­ment did not con­sult the se­lec­tion com­mit­tee, which picks up the CBI chief, be­fore tak­ing the ac­tion. “When Verma was re­tir­ing in few months, why not wait for few more months and con­sult se­lec­tion com­mit­tee?” the agen­cies quoted the Chief Jus­tice as say­ing. “Gov­ern­ment has to be fair, what was the dif­fi­culty in con­sult­ing the se­lec­tion com­mit­tee be­fore di­vest­ing Alok Verma of his power? Essence of ev­ery gov­ern­ment ac­tion should be to adopt the best course,” he said.

State coun­sel KK Venu­gopal con­tended that if the mat­ter had been placed be­fore the com­mit­tee, then it would have said it is not a trans­fer and need not be brought up be­fore the panel. Verma’s coun­sel Fali Na­ri­man had ar­gued that it was a trans­fer and also divest­ment of power of the CBI chief. The gov­ern­ment’s ar­gu­ment was that Verma was not trans­ferred, but merely sent on leave which meant it was a tem­po­rary mea­sure.

Kapil Sibal, who ap­peared for leader of the op­po­si­tion Mal­likar­jan Kharge, one of the mem­bers of the com­mit­tee that se­lects the CBI chief, ar­gued that the panel's ap­proval for trans­fer act as a “ring fence” to pro­tect the CBI chief from ex­ec­u­tive in­flu­ence, ac­cord­ing to the web­site, Live Law.

Dur­ing the hear­ing, the chief jus­tice asked Fali Na­ri­man if the SC had the power to ap­point an in­terim chief if the need arises. The gov­ern­ment re­mained firm on its stand that there was no need to con­sult the se­lec­tion com­mit­tee be­fore tak­ing the ac­tion. But the SC held that Verma had two years’ ten­ure and he was se­lected by the com­mit­tee. “So if you wanted to di­vest him of some­thing, why did you not con­sult the com­mit­tee,” asked the CJI.

The CVC's coun­sel said the watch­dog had no op­tion but to act to con­tain the cri­sis in CBI as it was ac­count­able for dere­lic­tion of duty. But the CJI said that Sec­tion 4 of DSPE Act, which con­trols the CBI func­tion­ing, says CVC su­per­in­ten­dence over CBI is re­stricted to probes in cor­rup­tion cases.

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