In his formal submission to Justice A K Patnaik, the retired Supreme Court judge supervising the inquiry against him being conducted by the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), deposed CBI Director Alok Kumar Verma had said Central Vigilance Commissioner K V Chowdary paid a visit to his residence on October 6 as an “arbitrator” for then CBI Special Director Rakesh Asthana.
This was 17 days before the government sent Verma on leave in a midnight order on October 23-24.
Verma’s submission describing the meeting, that lasted more than an hour, said Chowdary had concerns regarding Asthana’s Annual Performance Appraisal Report signed by Verma. While the submission was also addressed to Chowdary and his two fellow Commissioners, T M Bhasin and Sharad Kumar, it did not find any mention in the 53-page report submitted by the CVC to the Supreme Court on November 12.
This report formed the basis for Verma’s removal as CBI chief for the second time, on January 10, by a Selection Committee including Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
On Friday, in an interview to The Indian Express, Justice Patnaik had said that he was not associated in any manner with the CVC’s findings.
Documents accessed by The Sunday Express show that Verma told Justice Patnaik that Chowdary had come to his residence on October 6, a Saturday, with concerns over Verma’s remarks on Asthana’s appraisal report, signed by him in July 2018.
“It is probably for the same ‘special’ reasons about the Special Director that the Chief Vigilance Commissioner instead of ‘superintendence’, decided to act as an arbitrator when you came to my official residence with a colleague on October 6, 2018, between 11-11:30 am and spent more than an hour and said, ‘I am here on my own initiative to see if this issue can be resolved’. My response was the same to you as it was to other senior functionaries of the government including to my batch mate and Vigilance Commissioner Sharad Kumar,” Verma’s submission reads.
Verma had also placed on record before the CVC inquiry committee that he had told Chowdary and Sharad Kumar that concerns about Asthana’s performance appraisal could be resolved through “due process” and that “Asthana was free to avail it”.
He wrote, “As far as the investigations (against Asthana) are concerned, they will continue in a fair manner. I may also bring to your notice, from the perusal of 10 odd letters he (Asthana) wrote to the CVC (Chowdary) it is evident that he had an inside track of (the) investigation. And that is the genesis of this complaint (against me).”
The most serious charges made by Verma are about Chowdary “misrepresenting” facts to the Supreme Court, going as far as to “manipulate the minutes of meeting (meetings held from October 21, 2017, onwards, regarding the continuation of Special Director Asthana in the CBI)”, “to become an arbitrator, before becoming a superintendent in the instant complaint”.
Verma expresses his “sense of relief in having the Honourable Shri Justice A K Patnaik in this room”, adding, “because going by my past experience with the Central Vigilance Commission it will only be interested in somehow helping Shri Rakesh Asthana”. Verma records how he felt “cheated and dismayed on how the CVC and certain officials in power centres have gone out of their way to save just one individual officer i.e. Rakesh Asthana. A completely different set of rules or rather, no rules apply to Rakesh Asthana. I now realise he is not just an officer, he is a representative of the power centre.”
In his interview to The Indian Express, Justice Patnaik had noted that the statement of Asthana to the CVC with his “purported signature” was not made before him. He had also noted that this statement by Asthana was signed on November 9 and forwarded by Chowdary to him just a day before he finalised his report, on November 10. These remarks assume importance in the light of the fact that Verma’s written submission to Justice Patnaik and the CVC did not figure in the CVC’s report to the Supreme Court.
In his submission, Verma prefaces his point-by-point response to the complaints with a description of “how this current probe against me is not just about a complaint against Rakesh Asthana, it is about my insistence on following the rule of law in the selection process and (ensuring) independent CBI investigation into sensitive cases”. While he does not specify exactly which cases, he asserts, “These cases cut across higher echelons of political, executive and judiciary.”
Verma writes that he was silent to protect the CBI’s integrity. “However, my silence only became a source of encouragement, when the CVC selection committee decided to parachute officers without any due diligence. My objections and vehement protests are a matter of record and of course it was not appreciated.”
On Friday, the Delhi High Court turned down Asthana’s plea to quash the chargesheet against him on corruption charges.