The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear Thursday CBI director Alok Verma’s plea challenging the government’s order divesting him of his duties and sending him on leave in view of graft allegations against him. A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi is likely to consider the response of Verma given in a sealed cover on the findings of the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) in the preliminary inquiry against him.
The bench is also likely to consider the report of acting CBI Director M Nageswara Rao also filed in a sealed cover in the court with regard to the decisions taken by him from October 23-26. Besides the plea filed by Verma, the court is also likely to hear the PIL filed by NGO Common Cause, which has sought a probe by a special investigation team against CBI officers.
On November 20, the apex court had expressed deep anguish over the purported leak of Verma’s response to the CVC’s findings against him as also the publication of allegations levelled by the agency’s DIG Manish Kumar Sinha in his separate plea. The court had made it clear that it would not hear any party and would confine itself to the issues red flagged by it. Miffed over the alleged leak of Verma’s confidential response to the CVC’s findings, the court had said it wanted to keep the CBI director’s response confidential to maintain the probe agency’s dignity.
While adjourning the hearing for November 29, the court had taken umbrage to various media reports based on the petition filed by Sinha levelling allegations against various top functionaries. Sinha in his plea filed on November 19, dragged the names of NSA Ajit Doval, Union minister Haribhai Parthibhai Chaudhary and CVC K V Chowdhury over alleged attempts to interfere in the probe against CBI Special Director Rakesh Asthana, who has been divested of his duties and sent on leave along with his boss.
The court had earlier issued notices to the Centre, CBI, CVC, Asthana, Verma and Rao asking them to respond to it by November 12. The CVC had on November 12 filed in the apex court its preliminary enquiry report. The allegations have been levelled against Verma by his deputy Asthana, against whom an FIR has been lodged by the CBI on graft charges. Asthana was also sent on leave by the Centre.
The court had taken both the reports (CVC and Rao) on record on November 12. The CVC probe against Verma was supervised by former Supreme Court judge A K Patnaik and the investigation was completed on November 10. The CVC was earlier directed by the court to conduct an inquiry into the allegations made in the August 24 note/letter of the Cabinet Secretary with regard to Verma.
Asthana has also moved the apex court with a separate petition in the matter and has sought removal of Verma from the post of CBI Director. On November 4, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge had moved the top court contending that divesting Verma of his statutory powers and functions is “completely illegal and arbitrary”.
In an interlocutory application filed in the pending petition, Kharge, who is also a member of the three-member selection committee which appoints 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.