In and Out: How Have the Last 72 Hours Been for Alok Verma
The ousted agency director, who was sent on leave by the government amid a bitter power tussle with deputy Rakesh Asthana, now finds himself at the centre of a political war which may echo in upcoming general elections.
File photo of ousted CBI chief Alok Verma.
New Delhi: Out, in and out again. The last few months of Alok Kumar’s tenure as CBI chief have been tumultuous to say the least. The last 72 hours especially took Verma on a rollercoaster ride that is yet to come to a stop. The agency director, who was sent on leave by the government amid a bitter power tussle with deputy Rakesh Asthana, now finds himself at the centre of a political war which may echo in upcoming general elections.
Here’s a recap of what Alok Verma has been through in the last few days.
In partial victory for the ‘exiled’ CBI director, the Supreme Court ruled against the government’s decision to send him on leave. The top court order effectively reinstated Verma, but he was not allowed to take major policy decisions until the Narendra Modi-led Selection Committee decided on his fate.
Alok Verma started the day with a puja early morning and left for the CBI headquarters at 10:27am to resume charge. His staff at 2, Janpath even distributed prasad after Verma left for office for the first time in months. On reaching the CBI headquarters 20 minutes later, Verma was received by M Nageswara Rao, who had been given interim charge of the CBI.
“There was no ceremonial welcome for Alok Verma. It was just like any other day at office,” said a CBI official. Verma met officers and conducted meetings throughout the day.
Among those who met Verma were some officers who were transferred out by Rao, including deputy superintendent of police Ajay Bassi, and Ashwini Gupta. Both of them requested that their transfer be cancelled.
At 8:30pm, Verma passed an order nullifying all transfers ordered by Rao between October 24 and January 8.
That same day, the Selection Committee, comprising Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Leader of Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge and Justice AK Sikri met. They were handed over the Chief Vigilance Commission’s report, which was submitted to the Supreme Court in a sealed envelope, containing details of allegations and charges against Verma.
After going through the CVC report, Kharge supported full restoration of Verma’s powers, extension of Verma’s tenure by 77 days (duration of his ‘forced leave’), an independent investigation into the events of October 23 midnight when Verma and Asthana were sent on ‘exile’.
On his second day in office, Verma continued to transfer and reshuffle officers. Six officers, including Deputy Inspector General MK Sinha, Deputy Inspector General Tarun Gauda and Joint Director V Murugesan, were transferred.
Sinha, who was supervising the probe against Asthana, was transferred to Nagpur. Gauba, who was posted at Anti-Corruption Bureau, Chandigarh, was given the additional charge of AC-III, which was previously under Sinha. Murugesan will supervise AC-II and III units. AK Sharma, who is believed to be Verma’s close aide and was joint director (policy) will supervise the probes in AC-I unit.
Verma appointed SP Mohit Gupta, a 2006-batch IPS officer, as the investigating officer in the Rakesh Asthana case. Gupta will report to Gauba. While these transfer and posting orders were being made, the Selection Committee met again at 4:30 pm at 7, Lok Kalyan Marg, the PM’s official residence.
After two-and-a-half hours came the bombshell announcement -- the panel has decided to remove Alok Verma as the CBI chief in a 2:1 decision, with Kharge being the lone dissenter.
Verma was transferred as chief of Fire Services, Civil Defence and Home Guard. He will continue in the post till the end of his tenure on January 31.
Role of CVC Report
The report by the CVC played an important role in Alok Verma’s ouster. The report mentioned that the order dated October 23, which sent Verma on forced leave, was taken after considering multiple factors, including “the non-cooperation, non-compliance and wilful obstruction to the inquiry”.
The CVC had initiated an inquiry against him after receiving a reference from cabinet secretary dated August 30 which had Rakesh Asthana’s complaint enclosed.
In order to verify the allegations, the CVC gave three days to Verma and asked him to produce certain records, which he didn’t. The commission sent him four reminders, one even a day before he was sent on forced leave, but there was no response from Verma.
In the report submitted to the Supreme Court, the CVC observed that the allegations are “grave in nature impacting on the integrity of the officer concerned and the institution”.
It also called for further investigation into some of the allegations which would “not be possible with Alok Verma heading the same organisation which is to conduct such investigations”. The CVC also remarked there were instances of wilful non-production of records, and non-cooperation with the commission.
“Production of fabricated/non-genuine documents before the selection committee reflects complete lack of integrity and fairness,” said the CVC report, which found that a ‘secret note’ dated October 21, 2017 placed before the Selection Committee was fabricated.
The CVC report concluded that “an environment of hostility and faction feud in the CBI leading to potential loss of reputation/credibility, the Commission, after due-deliberations is of the considered view that the continuance of Shri Alok Verma as Director CBI is not appropriate and is not in the interest of the integrity and reputation of the Central Bureau of Investigation.”
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