The Supreme Court on Tuesday took the middle road by retaining Alok Verma as Director CBI for an interim period, delivering its verdict that the selection committee under the DSPE Act (Delhi Special Police Establishment) Act will consider his earlier removal from the post.
In its two-judge bench verdict, the apex court set aside the earlier order of the CVC (Central Vigilance Commission) and the DoPT (Department of Personnel and Training) sending Alok Verma on leave. However, the court has prohibited Alok Verma from taking any new policy decisions as interim CBI Director. Nageshwar Rao, who had been appointed interim CBI Director had also earlier been disallowed from taking major policy decisions. The selection committee consists of the Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition, and the Chief Justice of India.
The verdict was pronounced by Justice SK Kaul, on account of CJI Ranjan Gogoi not being present in court. The CJI bench had reserved its order on December 6, 2018, after hearing the arguments of Verma, the central government, the CVC, NGO Common Cause, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge and others who are a party in the case.
During the hearing, while confronting questions over the Centre's sudden decision to send CBI Director Verma on leave, the CVC had told the apex court that "extraordinary situations sometimes need extraordinary remedies."
Update: Nageshwar Rao has once again been made an additional director at India's premier investigative agency
The CJI Ranjan Gogoi had raised questions over the timing of the order and asked why the government took immediate steps to divest Verma of his powers without consulting the Selection Committee. Attorney General KK Venugopal appearing for the DoPT had told the bench that the government was well within its jurisdiction to send both officers (Verma and CBI Special Director Rakesh Asthana) on leave by divesting them of their powers. Venugopal had defended the Centre's decision over sending Verma on leave and said that the dispute between Verma and Asthana was tarnishing the reputation of the institution. He had added that both the top officials of the investigating agency were "fighting like Kilkenny cats." Senior advocate Fali Nariman, appearing for Verma, had contended that in all circumstances the CVC and the Centre should have consulted the Selection Committee. Verma had registered an FIR against Asthana and this was the reason for the Central government (DoPT) to divest him of his powers and functions, Nariman had contended. Senior advocate Kapil Sibal appearing for Mallikarjun Kharge, who had filed a plea against the Centre's and CVC decision of sending Verma on leave, had argued that the government does not have the power to remove or transfer the CBI Director.
The top court was hearing a petition filed by Verma against the Central government's order to send him on leave in view of the corruption allegations levelled against him. The Central government had sent Verma and his deputy Rakesh Asthana on leave after both levelled allegations of corruption against each other.
(With ANI inputs)