New Delhi: A high-powered committee headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday in a 2:1 decision removed Alok Verma as CBI director, making him possibly the first chief in the history of the agency to face such action. Just this week, Verma was reinstated by a Supreme Court order after he was sent on forced leave by the government.
Verma, whose service tenure ends on January 31, has now been given the charge of DG Fire Services, Civil Defence and Home Guards.
There were eight counts of charges against him in the CVC report presented before the Committee also comprising Leader of Congress in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge and Justice A K Sikri, appointed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi as his nominee.
According to the sources, the Prime Minister and Justice AK Sikri found his continuance detrimental to institutional integrity. Kharge, said sources, vehemently opposed the move to sack Verma. Kharge wanted the decision to be put in abeyance, but the other two members decided against it.
Kharge argued that the CVC does not have an air-tight case to prove Verma’s misconduct and that the committee should not arrive at a conclusion without hearing Verma. He said the allegations against Verma, which were investigated by the office of the Chief Vigilance Commissioner, were based on circumstantial evidence which “cannot be the basis of finding a person guilty”
The Congress party took to Twitter to express its disagreement with the decision.
"By removing #AlokVerma from his position without giving him the chance to present his case, PM Modi has shown once again that he's too afraid of an investigation, either by an independent CBI director or by Parliament via JPC," tweeted Congress.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi blamed the removal of CBI chief on the "fear" coursing through PM Modi's mind. The Congress claimed that Verma was removed without being given a chance to present his case, alleging that it showed that PM Modi was too afraid of an investigation, an apparent reference to its demand of a probe into the Rafale deal.
"Fear is now rampaging through Mr Modi’s mind. He can’t sleep. He stole 30,000Cr from the IAF and gave it to Anil Ambani. Sacking the CBI Chief #AlokVerma twice in a row, clearly shows that he is now a prisoner of his own lies," tweeted Rahul.
The BJP, on the other hand, called the Congress a "sore loser", saying the party has been left to lick its wounds "after failing to subvert the central probe agency by joining internal personal battles".
Verma, who resumed office on Wednesday, had revoked most of the transfers done by M Nageshwar Rao, who was appointed as the interim CBI chief in his absence, signalling that he was ready for a showdown with the Centre.
The Supreme Court, while reinstating Verma, had made it clear that he will desist from taking any major policy decision till a high-powered committee considers the issue of "divestment of power and authority".
The top court had asked the government to convene the meeting within a week of its order. It had quashed the government's unprecedented "overnight" order issued in October last year, stripping Verma of his powers and sending him on leave after he and his deputy traded corruption charges, sparking a bitter feud.
The CBI chief and his deputy Special Director Rakesh Asthana were sent on the forced leave over two months ago to stop the "kilkenny cat fight" between them. They had accused each other of corruption.