Reacting to the verdict, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the government felt that in the larger interest of fair and impartial investigation and credibility of the CBI, the two officers must recuse themselves. He said that while the court has held that approval from the high-powered committee was needed for removal of the CBI chief, the Central Vigilance Committee has been vested with powers to remove him in cases of corruption. "This action was taken perfectly bona fide as there were cross-allegations made by both the officers, and in accordance with recommendations of CVC. The govt had felt that in the larger interest of fair and impartial investigation and credibility of CBI,the two officers must recuse themselves," he said.
SC Order Copy With CNN-News18 | CBI Director Alok Kumar Verma may have been reinstated, but he cannot take any fresh decision. The Supreme Court has restrained him from taking any major policy decision till the CVC probe into corruption charges against him is over. Here's the order copy, which specifies that Verma can only exercise ongoing routine functions.
Arun Jaitley on Alok Verma Verdict | Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said that the government had taken the action of sending two senior officials of CBI (Alok Verma and Rakesh Asthana) on leave on recommendation of the CVC. He added that the government had not got the opportunity to read the full order and his reactions were based on media reports. "The government will read the order in detail and then react," he said.
The judgement was penned by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi. However, the CJI didn't attend court and it was pronounced by Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph. 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 January 31. He has moved the top court challenging the Centre's decision. Verma sought quashing of three orders of October 23, 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.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday reinstated CBI Director Alok Kumar Verma, setting aside the Centre's decision to divest him of his powers, but restrained him from taking any major policy decision till the CVC probe into corruption charges against him is over. The apex court said any further decision against Verma, who was sent on leave following the Centre's October 23 decision and retires on January 31, would be taken by the high-powered committee which selects and appoints the CBI director. The selection committee comprises the prime minister, the leader of opposition and the chief justice of India. The top court said the high powered committee will take its decision on the basis of the findings of the Central Vigilance Commission inquiry. It said the meeting of the committee should be convened within a week.
Centre Should Now Stop Misusing CBI and NIA for Political Vendetta: Mehbooba | Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti welcomed the Supreme Court's decision on Tuesday to reinstate Alok Verma as CBI director, saying the apex court ruling had restored faith in independent institutions. "Welcome SCs decision to reinstate #AlokVerma as CBI Dir. (It) reinstates belief in independent institutions of our democracy that are its pillars," Mufti said in a tweet. The former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister said the Centre should now stop "misusing" the investigative agencies like Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and National Investigation Agency (NIA) for political ends. "Time for the Central gov to stop misusing its influence to arm twist investigative agencies like (the) NIA & CBI for political vendetta," she added.
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal questioned if CBI director Alok Verma was "illegally" removed to "stall the probe in Rafale scam". "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?" 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?— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) January 8, 2019
Targeting the prime minister over CBI vs CBI case, Congress leader Randeep Surjewala said that Narendra Modi has become the first PM to "have his illegal orders set aside by the Supreme Court".
Modiji adds another 1st to his list— Randeep Singh Surjewala (@rssurjewala) January 8, 2019
After being the first PM to be exposed destroying the #CBI before the SC,
After having ruined CVC’s credibility (requiring supervision by former SC judge),
Mr. Modi has now become 1st PM to have his illegal orders set aside by the SC.
2/3— Randeep Singh Surjewala (@rssurjewala) January 8, 2019
Modiji pls remember, Govts have come and gone. Integrity of our institutions have survived.
Let this be a lesson to you about the strength of our democracy and the Constitution.
Let this be a lesson that howsoever despotic u may be, law catches up in the end.#CBI
Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi has questioned the Supreme Court verdict, asking what has changed now. "Before the Supreme Court verdict, Alok Verma didn't have powers of CBI Chief, couldn't take any decision on policy or investigation," he said, adding that the situation remains same after the hearing.
Before the Supreme Court verdict; Alok Verma didn't have powers of CBI Chief, couldn't take any decision on policy or investigation.— Abhishek Singhvi (@DrAMSinghvi) January 8, 2019
After Supreme Court verdict : DITTO !!!
On October 25, the Supreme Court had directed the CVC to complete the enquiry against Verma within two weeks, under the supervision of retired SC judge Justice A K Patnaik. The Court also restrained interim Director Nageshwara Rao from taking any major policy decisions regarding CBI, except carrying out day to day functions. The CVC submitted its enquiry report in a sealed cover on November 16. The SC observed that the CVC report is 'mixed' against Verma. During the course of hearings, the Court had asked what prompted the hurried midnight action against Verma on October 23, when the complaint against him was pending since August 2018.
Alok Verma Was Not Fulfilling Govt's Expectations: Kharge | CBI chief was removed as he was not doing what government wanted him to do, said senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge after the Supreme Court verdict. Senior advocate Kapil Sibal appearing for Kharge lasy year, who had filed a plea against the Centre's and CVC decision of sending Verma on leave, had argued that the government does not have the power to remove or transfer the CBI director.
It was held 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 without the prior consent of the statutory committee. The bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S K Kaul and KM Joseph had reserved orders on December 6.
The judgment authored by CJI Ranjan Gogoi, which was read out by Justice Kaul in his absence, held that the word "transfer" has to be understood as encompassing all acts which affect the independent functioning of CBI Director. Thus, the judgment overruled the contention of the Attorney General that the action against Verma cannot be regarded as "transfer" or "removal", as he was merely taken off charge.
Alok Verma to retire in February | Alok Verma is set to retire in February. The allegations and probe could ruin Asthana's chances of being the CBI's top boss. The infighting escalated when Asthana complained to Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) alleging that the CBI director had stopped raids on Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Yadav in Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation or IRCTC scam. In its counter, the CBI pointed out to the CVC that the issue relating to the IRCTC case was brought before the Supreme Court twice, but it was dismissed.
The Congress had last year alleged that the Chief Vigilance Commission and the government were hand in glove in divesting CBI Director Alok Verma of his powers and termed it as a "sinister conspiracy to put a lid on the investigation" into Rafale deal. The opposition party questioned why CVC Commissioner K V Chowdary had "abruptly cancelled" his scheduled foreign tour to hold an urgent meet at night on October 23 on the matter and issued an "illegal" order against Verma. AICC media in-charge Randeep Surjewala claimed there were layers of drama in the late night that day wherein "a fraud was played on the Constitution by Prime Minister Narendra Modi along with CVC, which was now out in the open".
Statute would have spelt out if interim measures against CBI Director were permissible, says Justice Kaul reads out from judgment authored by CJI Gogoi. The word "transfer" cannot be given its normal meaning. Has to be understood as encompassing acts affecting the functioning of the CBI director, he says.
The hearing in the Delhi High Court was separate from the proceedings in the Supreme Court, which had reserved its judgment on Verma's plea challenging the Centre's decision to exile him. Replying to the allegations levelled against him by Asthana, Verma stated that, “allegations are nothing but imagination of the petitioner” and that the “petition by Asthana is not maintainable and is misconceived”. Verma also stated that the “investigation are at nascent stage”. However, Verma insisted that the FIR against Asthana should not be dismissed and that the “allegations made in complaint against Asthana and others are very serious and requires thorough probe.”
Allegations Are Rakesh Asthana's Imagination: Alok Verma | CBI Director Alok Verma, who was divested of his duties and sent on a forced leave, had earlier dismissed all the allegations levelled against him by special CBI director Rakesh Asthana and called them nothing but the “imagination of the petitioner”. In an affidavit filed in the Delhi High Court last year, Verma also said there was “highly incriminating materials” found against Asthana and a thorough probe was necessary against him to restore public confidence in the investigative agency. The affidavit was in response to Asthana’s challenge to the FIR filed against him by the CBI and the decision to strip him all of his responsibilities in the HC. The affidavit further claimed that there was “cogent evidence of bribery against Asthana” and the government’s approval was not required before lodging the FIR against him.
Interim CBI Director Nageswara Rao Promoted | M Nageswara Rao, who is holding the post of interim CBI Director, was last year promoted to the rank of an additional director by the government. A 1986-batch IPS officer from the Odisha cadre, Rao's name was cleared by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet. The promotion of Rao, who took over as interim CBI Director amid a midnight drama on October 24, came after the government stepped in between Director CBI Alok Verma and Special Director Rakesh Asthana fight, which reached court. Rao was not considered for the rank of additional director in November 2016 as well as when a review of this batch took place in April 2018. He had joined the CBI as a joint director in 2016.
The serious corruption allegations may dampen chances of Asthana to become next CBI Director for which the selection and short-listing has already been initiated by the government but the decision will be taken by a committee comprising Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and leader of largest opposition party Mallikarjun Kharge. The new director is likely to be appointed by January 31 which is the retirement date of incumbent Alok Verma. Asthana has moved the Delhi High Court seeking directions to quash charges against him, while Verma had challenged divestment of his powers in the Supreme Court.
Congress chief Rahul Gandhi speaks to the media on Tuesday.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi launched an attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and said "nothing can save the PM now". He said Verma wanted to probe the Rafale deal, which is why he was shown the door by the government.
Senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge, meanwhile, said the "CBI chief was removed as he was not doing what the government wanted him to do". Co-petitioner Prashant Bhushan said despite restoring Verma, the court had said he could not take any major policy decision before the high-powered committee takes a final call. He added that it was a "partial victory" for Verma.
Verma had sought quashing of three orders of October 23, 2018 — one by the Central Vigilance Commission (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. CBI's Joint Director M Nageswara Rao, a 1986 batch Odisha-cadre IPS officer, was given the charge of interim chief of the probe agency.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had on December 6 reserved the judgment after hearing arguments on behalf of Verma, the Centre, the CVC and others. The court had also heard the plea moved by NGO Common Cause which had sought a court-monitored SIT probe into the allegations of corruption against various CBI officials, including Asthana.
Verma's two-year tenure as CBI director ends on January 31. He has moved the top court challenging the Centre's decision.
The Centre had justified its decision to divest Verma of his duties and send him on leave, saying he and Asthana were fighting like "Kilkenny cats", exposing the country's premier investigating agency to "public ridicule".
Attorney General KK Venugopal had told the bench, also comprising Justices SK Kaul and KM Joseph, that the Centre was well "within its right to intervene" and send both officers on leave by divesting them of their powers.
Venugopal had told the court that "only the God knows where and how this fight between the two top officers would have ended" if the government would not have taken the action which was aimed at restoring the public faith in the CBI.
Challenging the government's decision, Verma's counsel and senior advocate Fali S Nariman had argued that the CBI Director was appointed on February 1, 2017 and "the position of law is that there will be a fixed tenure of two years and this gentleman cannot be even transferred". Nariman had said there was no basis for the CVC to pass an order recommending that Verma be sent on leave.
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