24 March 2019 08:33 PM

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RIBHU RANJAN | 8 JANUARY, 2019

Supreme Court Reinstates Alok Verma as CBI Director

Apex court restrains Verma from taking major policy decisions


NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday reinstated Alok Kumar Verma as CBI Director with immediate effect. The Supreme Court in its verdict set aside the Centre's order of October 23 divesting Verma of his powers and sending him on leave.

However, the judgment authored by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi restrains Verma from taking any major policy decisions until the time his case is finally disposed off by the Central Vigilance Commission.

The apex court also said that any further decision against Verma would be taken by the high-powered committee which selects and appoints CBI directors.

The judgment, which was read out by Justice Kaul, held that the word "transfer" had to be understood as encompassing all acts which affect the independent functioning of the CBI Director. Thus, it overruled the contention of the Attorney General that the action against Verma could not be regarded as "transfer" or "removal", as he had merely been taken off charge.

The top court noted that the term "transfer", as used in section 4B of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, could not be understood in its traditional sense and must be interpreted as including actions which impact the functioning of the CBI Director.

It was on October 23 that the midnight order taking Verma of the charge of CBI Director was issued by the central government.

Fali Nariman, senior counsel appearing for Verma, argued that the CBI director cannot be removed without the prior sanction of the High Powered Committee under Section 4(1) of the DSPE Act.

Attorney General KK Venugopal defended the Centre's decision by stating that Verma was neither transferred nor removed from the post of CBI Director. That he continues to be CBI Director, but without charge of the post. This action was taken in view of the corruption allegations against him, the attorney general submitted.

On October 25 the Supreme Court had directed the CVC to complete the enquiry against Verma within two weeks, under the supervision of retired SC judge Justice AK Patnaik.

The Court also restrained interim Director Nageshwara Rao from taking any major policy decisions regarding the CBI, and only to carry out day to day functions.

The CVC submitted its enquiry report in a sealed cover on November 16. The SC observed that the CVC report against Verma was "mixed".

In the course of hearings, the court had asked what prompted the government's hurried midnight action against Verma on October 23, when the complaint against him had been pending since August 2018.

The issue has its genesis in the tussle which was brewing in the CBI following the rift between Verma and Special Director Rakesh Asthana.

The NGO Common Cause too had filed a public interest litigation against Verma's removal. The PIL sought a probe by a court-appointed special investigation team into the corruption allegations against CBI officials. It alleged that Verma had been handling the investigation of "sensitive cases" and that he was being victimised for taking action against Rakesh Asthana, a Gujarat cadre IPS officer, and also because he had entertained complaints made to the CBI against the top functionaries of the present government.
 

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