Nearly two weeks after Alok Verma was ousted as CBI director, a high-powered selection committee led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi will meet today to appoint his successor. The committee also includes Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge.
Months into the power tussle in the agency, Alok Verma was removed as CBI chief, barely 48 hours after he was reinstated by the Supreme Court in January. The PM Modi-led panel in a 2:1 result was against Verma’s continuance as CBI chief in light of the Central Vigilance Commission’s report and “the extremely serious nature of observations made by the CVC against Verma”. The panel also appointed M Nageswara Rao as CBI Interim Director.
Justice Sikri, who was asked by CJI Ranjan Gogoi to represent him on the panel, was said to be of the firm view that since the allegations against the CBI Director were technically “pending inquiry”, his position had become untenable.
Meanwhile, Justice Sikri Thursday recused from hearing a plea challenging the appointment of Nageswar Rao. The plea, which stated that Rao’s appointment was done without the authority of law since only the high-powered committee could take a decision on appointing a director, has been listed for hearing Friday.
Kharge writes to PM Modi, calls for an urgent meet
The lone dissenter on the high-powered selection committee, Mallikarun Kharge, called the appointment of Rao as Interim Director “illegal” and shot a letter to PM Modi called for an immediate meeting of the committee to select a new CBI chief.
In his letter to the Prime Minister, Kharge urged him to make public the findings of the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), Justice A K Patnaik’s report on Verma as well as minutes of the January 10 meeting (when Verma was removed). “The Government seems to be worried about something and in a tearing hurry to dispose of a man from his office, that an irrational decision was taken to transfer Shri Alok Verma as DG Fire Services even after his superannuation,” Kharge said. Justice Patnaik, who had been asked by the Supreme Court to supervise the probe against Verma, disowned the CVC findings, saying these were not his.
Alok Verma refused to take new posting
Alok Verma, the first CBI chief to be removed in the history of the agency, said he “tried to uphold the integrity of the institution while attempts were being made to destroy it”. He also refused to take charge as Director General, Fire Services, Civil Defence and Home Guards and told the government that he “may be deemed as superannuated” with immediate effect. He also said the selection committee did not provide him with an opportunity to explain details as recorded by the CVC before ordering his removal.
“It is sad that on the basis of false, unsubstantiated and frivolous allegations made by only one person, who was inimical to me, I have been transferred to another post,” he wrote in a letter to the government, announcing his resignation. He is due to retire by the end of this month.
Verma was reinstated by the SC after he was sent on forced leave in October amid a bitter fight with his deputy Rakesh Asthana. Both the CBI officials levelled corruption charges against each other and demanded a probe into the matter.