The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to interfere with the transfer orders of CBI DSP AK Bassi, who was investigating officer in the corruption case against the agency's former special director Rakesh Asthana, from Delhi to Port Blair alleging that it would prejudice the probe.
A bench, headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde, questioned why Bassi has not joined his service at Port Blair, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, as per the transfer order.
The bench, also comprising Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, ordered that Bassi can approach the appropriate forum for relief and dismissed the plea as withdrawn.
At the outset, the bench asked senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for Bassi, "Is it true that you have still not joined your service at Andaman and Nicobar?"
Dhavan replied that his transfer was wrongly ordered and the top court had on January 8 last year granted him liberty to make a representation with regard to the transfer order.
He said that following the apex court order the transfer was withdrawn on January 9, 2019, but then a day after, a new director came and restored the transfer order on January 11.
"After the withdrawal of the transfer order, this should have been the end of the issue ideally. On January 10 last year a new CBI director came and said: "I declare the January 9, 2019, order non est (does not exist) and restored the transfer order," Dhavan said.
The bench said that even if Bassi thinks the order was illegal or incorrect, he has to follow it and join his services at Port Blair, unless the court sets it aside.
It asked Dhavan to show where the top court on January 8, 2019 said that his transfer order was illegal and he need not go to Port Blair. Dhavan said the court had granted permission to make the representation.
The top court after perusing the January 8 last year order said that even in the order, there is no protection given to the petitioner. Dhavan said the transfer order is in the teeth of the court's order and protection needs to be given to Bassi against the charge sheet.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the CBI, said that Bassi can approach the appropriate forum to challenge the transfer order.
Dhavan then said that he would approach the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) but protection from the charge sheet may be given as it had questioned why the petitioner moved the top court against the transfer order without seeking prior permission from the probe agency.
"I (Bassi) am being harassed for approaching the court. I will approach CAT but till then kindly protect me," Dhavan said. The bench refused to grant him any relief and allowed him to withdraw the plea with all grounds left open.
On March 15 last year, the top court had said that it would hear Bassi's plea challenging his transfer to Port Blair on the ground that it was vitiated by "mala fides" and would prejudice the probe against Asthana. On February 1 last year the apex court had sought response from the probe agency on Bassi's plea challenging the transfer order.
Bassi, who was the investigating officer in the corruption case against Asthana, said in his plea that he is being "victimised by the then interim CBI Director – M Nageswara Rao, who represents certain elements within the CBI, who did not want the Petitioner herein to conduct a free and fair investigation in the Asthana FIR".
He said it was Rao, who had passed the order dated October 24, 2018 transferring him to Port Blair and it is the same person at whose behest he is again been sent to Andaman Nicobar in utter disregard to the judgment of this court in the case of former CBI director Alok Verma.
Subsequent to the January 8 verdict in the Verma case, he had made a representation to the then CBI director (Alok Verma) on January 9, which was allowed and then he was transferred back to Delhi and assigned to his duties of DSP, CBI, AC-III, New Delhi, Bassi had said.
In his plea Bassi has challenged the transfer order issued on January 11, last year saying it was violative of the directions issued by the top court.
The two top officials of CBI, Verma and Asthana were at loggerheads and had levelled allegations of corruption against each other. Verma, however, was divested from his duties as CBI director by the high powered selection committee and transferred as Director General Fire Service.
On January 10, last year, Rao, additional director in CBI, was made the interim chief of the agency till the appointment of a new director, after Verma was removed from the post of CBI Director by a high-powered committee headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
On January 8, last year, the apex court had asked the CBI officers including Bassi, who were transferred overnight to various places after the Centre's decision to divest Verma of his powers, to approach appropriate forum assailing their transfers.
Bassi had said he was never a part of any "group or faction" within the CBI and has no concern whatsoever with the alleged disputes that have erupted within the CBI.