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'PM Modi's Action of Sending CBI Chief Alok Verma on Leave Illegal': Kharge Moves SC Against Decision

In his petition, Mallikarjun Kharge said the Central Vigilance Commission or the government do not have the power to curtain Alok Verma’s tenure as CBI chief.

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Updated:November 3, 2018, 10:20 PM IST
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'PM Modi's Action of Sending CBI Chief Alok Verma on Leave Illegal': Kharge Moves SC Against Decision
File photo of Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge.
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New Delhi: Senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge moved the Supreme Court on Saturday against the Centre's decision to send CBI director Alok Verma on leave, saying it was "completely illegal and arbitrary".

In his petition, Kharge, who is the leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha and a member of the three-member committee which picks 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. "Prime Minister Narendra Modi's suo motu action of sending CBI director Alok Verma on leave is illegal and is in violation of the law," Kharge later said.

Verma and CBI Special Director Rakesh Asthana were stripped of their powers and sent on leave on October 23 as the top two officers of the premier investigation agency levelled charges of corruption against each other. The government's move came hours after the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) recommended that Verma and Asthana be sent on leave and a Special Investigation Team (SIT) be formed to probe corruption allegations against them.

Kharge said the CVC has no power to act against the CBI director or send him on leave, and that only the three-member panel comprising the prime minister, the Chief Justice of India and the leader of the opposition/the single largest opposition party can take such a decision.

"Without the committee's consent, they have asked the CBI director to go on long leave. This is a violation of the (Delhi Special Police Establishment) Act (under which the CBI was formed). The CVC has no power to ask him to go on leave or inquire against him and has thus violated the rules," he said.

Alleging interference by the Prime Minister and his office in the functioning of the CBI, he said the government should have called a meeting of the three-member of the committee before taking any decision on the matter.

In an interlocutory application filed in the pending petition, Kharge said,  "The entire action of the central vigilance commission (CVC) vide its order October 23 and the DoPT vide order October 23 seeking to divest CBI director Alok Verma of his statutory powers and functions is completely illegal, arbitrary, punitive and without jurisdiction...."

He said the provisions of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act (DSPE Act) clearly say that the tenure and terms of the CBI director is protected and even the transfer cannot be effected without the consent of the committee.

He said the orders of the CVC and the DOPT divesting Verma of his powers, functions and duties is a "direct and concerted attempt" to impede the independent functioning of the CBI director.

Kharge, who claimed to have written a letter on October 25 to place on record that no meeting of the selection committee was convened to deliberate the issue, said, "It was also pointed out that the de facto transfer/divesting of the authority of the CBI director is illegal and mala fide."

In his petition settled by senior advocate Kapil Sibal and filed through advocate Devadatt Kamat, Kharge said the CVC's order of October 23 is "completely without jurisdiction" as neither the DSPE Act nor the CVC Act, 2003 confers and empowers to divest the CBI director of his powers and duties.

Similarly, the central government cannot exercise any power under the DSPE Act which is in the derogation of the powers of the selection committee, Kharge said. "It is submitted that the political executive vide order dated October 23 has completely negated the role of the statutory committee constituted under Section 4A of the DSPE Act which is entrusted with protecting the integrity of terms and tenure of the CBI director," Kharge said.

The veteran Congress leader said that he was neither consulted despite being a member of the selection committee nor was he part of any meeting or privy to any decision to divest Verma of his powers as the CBI director.

He sought quashing of CVC's and DOPT's October 23 orders. Observing that the crisis in the CBI sparked by the internal feud should not linger on in national interest, the Supreme Court had on October 26 set a two-week deadline for the CVC to complete its ongoing inquiry against CBI chief Verma and said a retired apex court judge will monitor the probe.

The court also made it clear that M Nageswara Rao, who is a Joint Director of the CBI, would only perform the routine tasks that are essential to keep the CBI functional. Rao was given interim charge of looking after the duties of the CBI director after the top-level shake up.

It said that all decisions taken by Rao be placed before it in a sealed cover on November 12, the next date of hearing. Congress sources said the party had asked Kharge to file the petition.

Kharge had opposed Verma's appointment as CBI director in the selection committee meeting. The Congress has been seeking to make the matter political by linking it with the Rafale issue to target the Narendra Modi government ahead of assembly polls in some states this year and the parliamentary election early next year.

The Congress has alleged that the CBI director was divested of his powers in an overnight action since he was considering probing the alleged corruption in the Rafale fighter jet deal.
| Edited by: Nitya Thirumalai
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