Nearly three months after he was stripped of all his powers as the CBI chief, the Supreme Court Tuesday reinstated Alok Verma to the top position. Verma is now back as the CBI Director but will not be able to take any policy decisions till a statutory Committee meets on his removal within a week.
Ten things to know about Supreme Court verdict on Alok Verma’s plea
1. In a setback to the government, the apex court set aside the orders of the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) and the Department of Personnel and Training (DEPT) that divested Alok Verma of his powers as the CBI chief in October.
2. A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi said a high-powered committee comprising the Prime Minister, Chief Justice of India and Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha will look into the allegations against Verma. Only after the committee takes a call, can Verma make any major changes. Till then he shall confine only to routine functions.
3. It also set aside the Centre’s decision to appoint senior IPS officer M Nageswara Rao, who was the joint director, as the agency’s interim chief.
4. Both Verma and his deputy, Rakesh Asthana, were divested of their powers in the CBI following a bitter feud among them. Both levelled corruption allegations against each other. Verma challenged his removal in the apex court, saying the decision was against the rules that mandate that the CBI chief has two years in office. Another petition was filed by NGO Common Cause in the case. Verma’s two-year tenure as CBI Director ends on January 31.
5. During the hearing, the government argued that the two officers were fighting like “Kilkenny cats,” leaving them with no choice but to send them on leave. The court, however, said that the feud between the top aides of CBI was “not something that happened overnight to require immediate action”. It also questioned the government’s haste and asked why a selection committee was not consulted in the case.
6. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the Centre would comply with the Supreme Court verdict. Adding that the action was taken on the recommendations of the CVC, Jaitley said, “The government wanted to protect CBI. It felt that in the larger interest of fair and impartial investigation and credibility of the agency, the two officers must recuse themselves.” The court has taken a “balanced view” in the case, he added. “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.
7. Targetting the BJP, Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said the verdict is a “lesson” to Prime Minister Modi that the “law catches up in the end.” “”Modiji adds another 1st to his list. After being the first PM to be exposed destroying the #CBI before the SC, After having ruined CVC’s credibility (requiring supervision by former SC judge),Mr. Modi has now become 1st PM to have his illegal orders set aside by the SC,” he tweeted. Mallikarjun Kharge also called the judgment a “lesson” “Today you’ll use these agencies to pressurise people, tomorrow somebody else will, What will happen to democracy then?” he told reporters, reported news agency ANI
8. Reacting to the apex court’s judgment, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal called it a “direct indictment of the PM”. He also accused Modi government of “ruining all institutions and democracy” in the country. “Wasn’t CBI director illegally removed at midnight to stall the probe in Rafale scam which directly leads to PM himself?” he tweeted. Speaking to reporters outside Parliament, Rashtriya Janata Dal MP Manoj Jha described the order as a “big slap” on the face of the government.
9. Senior advocate Prashant Bhushan, also a petitioner in the case, said the Supreme Court order was a partial victory for Verma. “He has been restored but strangely he has been restrained from taking any policy decisions,” he said.
10. Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti said the Central government should now “stop misusing and its influence to arm-twist investigative agencies for political vendetta.”