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SC Sets 2-week Deadline for Probe Against CBI Director, Bars Interim Boss From Taking Major Decisions

The apex court made it clear that from now on, Rao, who is a Joint Director of CBI, would only perform the routine tasks till the next hearing on November 12.

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Updated:October 26, 2018, 4:43 PM IST
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SC Sets 2-week Deadline for Probe Against CBI Director, Bars Interim Boss From Taking Major Decisions
File photo of CBI director Alok Verma.
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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday set a deadline of two weeks for the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) to complete its inquiry against CBI Director Alok Kumar Verma, who was divested of his powers by the Centre and sent on leave after a feud with his second-in-command, Special Director Rakesh Asthana.

The court directed that the inquiry be conducted under the supervision of a retired apex court judge and also barred IPS officer M Nageswara Rao, who has been given interim charge of looking after the duties of the CBI Director, from taking any policy decision or any major decision.

The court made it clear that from now on, Rao, who is a Joint Director of CBI, would only perform the routine tasks. It said a list of decisions taken by Rao from October 23 till Friday, including transfer of investigations and change of investigating officers, be placed before the court in a sealed cover by November 12 - the next date of hearing - after which it would pass appropriate orders.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said the CVC's inquiry into the allegations made in the August 24 note of the Cabinet Secretary with regard to Verma would be supervised by retired apex court judge Justice AK Patnaik.

"We make it clear that entrustment of supervision of on-going enquiry by the CVC to a former judge of this court is one-time exception which has been felt necessary by this court in the peculiar facts of this case and should not be understood to be casting any reflection on any authority of the Government of India," said the bench, also comprising Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph.

The bench sought responses from the Centre and CVC on the plea of Verma, who has also sought a stay on the Centre's order giving interim charge of his post to Rao, calling it patently illegal.

Senior advocate Fali S Nariman, appearing for Verma, said that the CBI director was appointed for a two year tenure with the approval of a selection panel comprising the Prime Minister, the Leader of Opposition and the Chief Justice of India and can only be removed by it.

"The question is whether the tenure could be breached at any time?," Nariman told the bench and referred to the apex court's 1997 Vineet Narain judgment and amendments in the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act under which the CBI was constituted.

In his petition, Verma has alleged that CBI’s autonomy is being compromised and said that there are occasions when certain investigations into high functionaries do not take the direction that may be desirable to the government.

The bench also dealt with the separate plea by NGO, Common Cause, which has sought a probe by special investigation team against CBI officers including Asthana, and issued notices to the Centre, CBI, CVC, Asthana, Verma and Rao asking them to respond to it by November 12.

"The enquiry will be conducted under the supervision of a retired judge of this Court Justice A K Patnaik who is requested to accept the assignment and ensure that enquiry is completed within the time frame fixed by this court," it said. Asthana has also moved the Supreme Court with a separate petition in the matter.
| Edited by: Mayur Borah
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