SC Pulls up Govt, Asks Why it Did Not Consult Selection Committee Before Exiling CBI Director
The court also raised doubts over the government version that the urgent action was necessitated by “extraordinary” circumstances and asked if the Centre and CVC tolerated the internal tussle since July, then why it did not approach the panel.
File photo of ousted CBI chief Alok Verma.
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday pulled up the government for not approaching the selection committee before sending CBI director Alok Verma on forced leave.
The three-judge bench led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi hearing the case since the last one month asked the government what the difficulty was in consulting the panel. “Why not be completely fair? The essence of every government action is what is best for administration,” the bench said.
The Selection Committee comprises the Prime Minister, CJI and the leader of the single largest party in opposition. Verma has argued in court that he has a fixed two-year tenure and can only be removed on the recommendations of this committee.
“It is better to consult the Selection Committee than not to consult. It is not only a question of adherence to law but better adherence to law. Even if exigencies occur, is it not advisable to go to the Committee at some stage?” the bench asked the government.
The court also raised doubts over the government version that the urgent action was necessitated by “extraordinary” circumstances and asked if the Centre and CVC tolerated the internal tussle since July, then why it did not approach the panel. It pointed out that the decision to send Verma was only taken in October and not overnight.
The government has earlier submitted in court that the selection committee has to only recommend a name for the CBI director but the government remained the appointing authority.
On the government insisting that it had acted well within its powers and not transferred Alok Verma as he was still the CBI director and within Delhi, the Chief Justice said a transfer should not be understood in a very literal sense.
The fight between the top two officers of the CBI - Alok Verma and special director Rakesh Asthana - roiled the agency and forced the government to divest both of their powers on October 23.
This was challenged by Verma in the Supreme Court. The court has indicated that it will only look into whether the government has the powers to do what it did, and not the merits of the corruption case against the CBI director.
Additional solicitor general Tushar Mehta, appearing on behalf of the Centre, said the government had no option but to act as instead of investigating serious corruption cases, both officers were investigating each other.
“The law has to be interpreted in a manner that is beneficial for the institution,” he told the court.
When Justice KM Joseph asked whether exiling Verma was a proportional step when there happened to be nothing more but one complaint against him, Mehta requested the court not to go on facts. "There will have much more to be said on facts," he replied.
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