After the Supreme Court struck down its move to send CBI Director Alok Verma on leave, the government put up a brave face and said that its “perfectly bonafide” decision was based on a recommendation from the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) and that it was taken in the“larger interest of fair and impartial investigation and larger credibility of the CBI as an institution”.
Jaitley also said that the government will comply with the apex court’s order Tuesday to reinstate Verma. However, he declined comment when asked whether the order was a setback to the government.
The order clarifies the law on what was yet a grey area — how to proceed if interim action was inevitable against a CBI chief — and further insulates post from pressures. But for Verma, it’s a mixed bag.
”The government had taken this action of sending two senior officers on leave on the recommendation of the CVC. This action taken was perfectly bonafide because there were allegations and cross-allegations made by these officers,” Jaitley said.
On October 23, 2018, the government had sent Verma and his No.2 in the CBI, Special Director Rakesh Asthana, on leave following a bitter spat between the two, with each accusing the other of accepting bribes.
”In accordance with the recommendations of the CVC, the government felt that in the larger interest of fair and impartial investigation, and the larger credibility of the CBI as an institution, these officers must recuse themselves, which the CVC has formulated in the form of asking them to go on leave,” Jaitley said.
Referring to the court asking the high-powered committee that selects the CBI chief to decide on the way forward for Verma within a week, Jaitley said, “The court apparently has strengthened the immunity given to the CBI Director in the larger interest of the fair and impartial working of the CBI. At the same time, the court has devised an accountability mechanism. The directions of the court will obviously be complied with.”
He said that the committee — it comprises the Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition and Chief Justice of India — will be convened soon.
Jaitley also insisted that the government was not “biased” and that it did not take the decision against any particular individual. “The government had accepted the CVC recommendations with full honesty and today a reinterpretation on the matter has been given by the Supreme Court,” he said, adding that the CVC was an independent body that had submitted its recommendations to the top court.
“The CVC had exercised its power… of superintendence. We have not read the judgment, but it could be a view that the court has taken. That, if superintendence results in the chief relinquishing his powers temporarily then the jurisdiction of the committee comes into play. Therefore, the court has referred the matter to that committee to decide on that issue within one week,” Jaitley said.