Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge, the sole dissenting voice in the high-powered selection committee that decided to oust Alok Verma as CBI Director over corruption charges, has asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to make public the findings of the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) and Justice A K Patnaik’s report on Verma as well as the minutes of the January 10 meeting.
In a letter to the Prime Minister, Kharge has said this should be done “so the public can draw its own conclusions in this matter”.
Calling the appointment of M Nageswara Rao as interim Director of the agency “illegal”, Kharge has asked for immediate convening of the selection committee to appoint a new CBI Director without further delay.
The selection committee is headed by Prime Minister and comprises Leader of Opposition and the Chief Justice of India or a judge nominated by him — Justice A K Sikri had attended the January 10 meeting.
The two-page letter raises serious questions on propriety, documents placed on record and the conduct of proceedings in the committee to ensure the ouster of Verma. Kharge said that the committee “chose to take a decision based on a report that now stands disowned by Justice Patnaik who was asked by the Supreme Court to monitor the CVC’s enquiry”.
“The removal of Alok Verma on 10th Jan 2019 was made without following either due process of law or the principles of natural justice,” Kharge wrote in his two-page letter, adding that “a committee that consists of senior representatives of the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary should not take a decision merely on a report prepared by an outside agency, howsoever competent without vetting that report and applying its own mind”.
“The Government seems to be worried about something and in a tearing hurry to dispose a man from his office, that an irrational decision was taken to transfer Shri Alok Verma as DG Fire Services even after his superannuation,” he said.
On the appointment of Rao, the Congress leader said that “the Government seems to have made up its mind on appointing an Interim Director, and hence this was never placed before the selection meeting in the 10th Jan 2019 meeting. The appointment of an Interim Director is illegal and against Section 4A(1) and 4A(3) of the DSPE Act.” Rao’s appointment was also challenged in the Supreme Court on Monday by NGO Common Cause.
“The actions of the Government in this matter indicate that it is scared of having the CBI headed by an independent Director,” Kharge said.
The Indian Express accessed the 53-page CVC report and found it either ambivalent about, or dismissive of, most of the 10 allegations made by CBI Special Director Rakesh Asthana against his erstwhile boss, Verma.
It completely dismissed three allegations made by Asthana against Verma, was silent on one allegation, could not look into another due to paucity of time, while one had one part dismissed while it said the other “part of the allegation requires further investigation”.
In one allegation, the report came to a finding that “disciplinary and other actions” were needed for one part while dismissing the other part as “not substantiated”.
Only one allegation was found as “substantiated” by the CVC report, which also asked the Supreme Court to order a criminal investigation in another, and asked for a de novo (from the beginning) investigation by another branch of the CBI into a third charge.
Justice Patnaik, the retired Supreme Court judge who was asked by the Supreme Court to supervise the CVC enquiry, had told The Indian Express that there was “no evidence of corruption” against Verma, and “what the CVC says cannot be the final word”.
“There was no evidence against Verma regarding corruption. The entire enquiry was held on (CBI Special Director Rakesh) Asthana’s complaint. I have said in my report that none of the findings in the CVC’s report are mine,” he said.