- CBI Disgraced, Says Venugopal
- Selection Doesn't Mean Appointment: A-G
- MK Sinha Doesn't Want Hearing Now
- Stick to Points of Law, Sibal Told
- Can Happen to CVC, CAG Tomorrow: Sibal
- Can't Act Without Selection Committee Nod: Dave
- CJI Blocks Arguments Against Asthana
- Leave order cannot stand: Nariman
- 2-year tenure minimum: Nariman
The bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi is likely to consider the response of Verma given in a sealed cover on the findings of the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) in the preliminary inquiry against him. The bench is also likely to consider the report of acting CBI director M Nageswara Rao also filed in a sealed cover in the court with regard to the decisions taken by him from October 23-26.Besides the plea filed by Verma, the court is also likely to hear the PIL filed by NGO Common Cause, which has sought a probe by a special investigation team against CBI officers.
"Primary concern was to protect people's faith in the CBI. Its top two officers were at serious loggerheads against each other. The public opinion was getting negative. And hence the government decided to intervene in larger public interest so that CBI doesn't lose confidence of people," A-G tells Supreme Court
If the CVC wrote to the government under its power of superintendence of investigation of corruption cases, could the government issue its order under the residuary power? CVC wrote under Section 8 qua investigation but government issued orders under residuary powers: CJI’s question to A-G Venugopal
Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan argues for two other CBI officers — AK Bassi and Ashwini Gupta, who have been transferred. Dhavan emphasises that no rules can obviate the two-year fixed tenure of the CBI chief. "Even if the court were to say there is a lacuna in the DSPE Act, it is for the Supreme Court to fill up that lacuna. The government or CVC can't fill up this lacuna," Dhavan tells the court.
DIG MK Sinha decides not to press his application at the moment. Senior advocate Indira Jaising says Sinha would rather wait to first know the outcome of the petition filed by Alok Verma. Sinha doesn't want his plea argued. Sinha had, in his plea filed on November 19, dragged the names of NSA Ajit Doval, Union minister Haribhai Parthibhai Chaudhary and CVC KV Chowdhury over alleged attempts to interfere in the probe against Rakesh Asthana.
The Supreme Court is permitting intervention application by Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge and is allowing his lawyer Kapil Sibal to argue his plea. Sibal tells SC that CVC's power of superintendence over CBI is limited to corruption cases. It can't empower CVC to seal CBI chief's office or to recommend for a forced leave, he says.
The Vineet Narain decision relates to the investigation of allegations of corruption against high-ranking public officials in India. Before 1997, the tenure of the CBI director was not fixed and they could be removed by the government in any manner. But the apex court in the Vineet Narain judgment fixed a tenure of a minimum of two years for the CBI director to allow the officer to work with independence. Nariman referred to the terms and conditions of appointment and removal of the CBI director and concerned provisions of the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act, 1946.
In the pre-lunch session, the arguments on behalf of Alok Verma have focused on the Supreme Court’s Vineet Narayan judgment of 1997. Making his submission before a bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph, CBI director’s counsel Fali Nariman said there was no basis for the Central Vigilance Commission to pass such an order recommending to send him on leave. "There has to be strict interpretation of the Vineet Narain judgment. This is not the transfer and Verma has been denuded of his power and duties...otherwise there was no use of the Narain judgment and the law...," Nariman said.
The Supreme Court stops senior advocate Dushyant Dave from arguing against special CBI director Rakesh Asthana in this case. Appearing for Prashant Bhushan’s NGO, Common Cause, Dave said Asthana assumed the role of the CBI Director but CJI Ranjan Gogoi stops him from arguing on this line. The bench rises for lunch. The hearing will resume at 2 pm.
Nariman asks how can the government divest Alok Verma of his powers without convening the Committee, adding if this is allowed, what happens to the autonomy and independence of CBI. Nariman concludes on behalf of AlokVerma. Supreme Court clarifies it will first stick to the argument on whether an approval from the high-powered committee was a must before acting against Verma. It will also hear the government, CVC on this aspect. Senior lawyer Dushyant Dave is now appearing on behalf of NGO Common Cause.
The leave order will not stand without permission from the committee, says Fali Nariman. There is a provision for removing the Chief of the public service commission but here for the DCBI no such provision on place as even SC didn’t foresee such a situation, he adds. Justice KM Joseph asks Nariman: "Suppose a CBI chief is caught red-handed taking a bribe, what should be the course of action? You say the Committee has to be approached but should the person continue even for a minute?"
Fali Nariman submits that with effect from 2014, the appointment of CBI Director has to be done by a committee consisting of Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition and the Chief Justice of India. If there is no leader of opposition, then the leader of the single largest party will be part of the committee, he says, adding that the CBI chief cannot be transferred except with the previous consent of the committee.
The matter of the sealed CVC report being leaked to the media is also raised in court as it had made a miffed CJI adjourn the hearing last week after just two minutes. Referring to the top court’s own judgment in the Sahara case, Nariman says that the view of the court then was that media cannot be prohibited from publishing material which has been filed in court.
Alok Verma distances himself from CBI DIG MK Sinha's application, containing allegations against several people. His lawyer Nariman says it is questionable if Sinha's application should have been shared with the media even before the court looked at it. Sinha had accused NSA Ajit Doval, Union minister Haribhai Parthibhai Chaudhary and CVC KV Chowdhury of attempts to interfere in the probe against CBI special director Rakesh Asthana.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi is likely to consider the response of Verma given in a sealed cover on the findings of the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) in the preliminary inquiry against him. The bench is also likely to consider the report of acting CBI director M Nageswara Rao also filed in a sealed cover in the court with regard to the decisions taken by him from October 23-26.
File photos of CBI special director Rakesh Asthana and director Alok Verma.
On November 20, the apex court had expressed deep anguish over the purported leak of Verma's response to the CVC's findings against him as also the publication of allegations levelled by the agency's DIG Manish Kumar Sinha in his separate plea.
The court had made it clear that it would not hear any party and would confine itself to the issues red flagged by it.
Miffed over the alleged leak of Verma's confidential response to the CVC's findings, the court had said it wanted to keep the CBI director's response confidential to maintain the probe agency's dignity.
While adjourning the hearing for November 29, the court had taken umbrage to various media reports based on the petition filed by Sinha levelling allegations against various top functionaries.
Sinha, in his plea filed on November 19, dragged the names of NSA Ajit Doval, Union minister Haribhai Parthibhai Chaudhary and CVC KV Chowdhury over alleged attempts to interfere in the probe against CBI special director Rakesh Asthana, who has been divested of his duties and sent on leave along with his boss.
The court had earlier issued notices to the Centre, CBI, CVC, Asthana, Verma and Rao asking them to respond to it by November 12. The CVC had on November 12 filed in the apex court its preliminary enquiry report.
The allegations have been levelled against Verma by his deputy Asthana, against whom an FIR has been lodged by the CBI on graft charges. Asthana was also sent on leave by the Centre.
The court had taken both the reports (CVC and Rao) on record on November 12. The CVC probe against Verma was supervised by former Supreme Court judge A K Patnaik and the investigation was completed on November 10.
The CVC was earlier directed by the court to conduct an inquiry into the allegations made in the August 24 note/letter of the Cabinet Secretary with regard to Verma.
Asthana has also moved the apex court with a separate petition in the matter and has sought removal of Verma from the post of CBI Director.
On November 4, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge had moved the top court contending that divesting Verma of his statutory powers and functions is "completely illegal and arbitrary".
In an interlocutory application filed in the pending petition, Kharge, who is also a member of the three-member selection committee which appoints the CBI director, said that "as a concerned stakeholder he brings to the attention of the court the brazen and illegal actions" of the political executive in interfering with the independent functioning of the CBI director.
(With PTI inputs)
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