OCTOBER 24, 2018
NEW DELHI – Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) director Alok Kumar Verma has accused the government of interfering with the independence and autonomy of the premier institution, told the Supreme Court that divesting him of his powers “overnight” by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) and the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) was “patently illegal”, and also hinted that he was removed for investigating cases inconvenient to the government.
He also hit out at the agency’s special director Rakesh Asthana (whom he didn’t name), who too was sent on leave along with the director, for posing hurdles in investigating cases.
Verma’s petition was mentioned by advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan before a bench led by chief justice Ranjan Gogoi on Wednesday morning. Investigating officers of sensitive cases are being changed, which may jeopardize a probe into many sensitive cases, he said. The court agreed with his request for an early hearing and listed the matter for Friday.
Verma sought the quashing of the “rapid fire” decisions of October 23 by the CVC and the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), as being without jurisdiction and in violation of Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution. They were arbitrary and issued without following the due process of law, he claimed.
Verma has moved the top court under Article 32 of the Constitution.
As CBI is expected to function independently and autonomously, there are bound to be occasions when certain investigations of high functionaries do not take the direction that may be desirable to the government, Verma mentioned in his petition. He offered to share details of “many cases” which have led to the “present circumstances.” Verma did not divulge the same in his petition as they “are extremely sensitive” in nature.
Verma’s petition has asked to court to “give independence to CBI from the DoPT” as its latest move “seriously hinders the CBI’s independent functioning.” Not all influence exerted by a political government would be found “explicit or in writing.” “More often than not, it is tacit and requires considerable courage to withstand,” Verma claimed.
The director has also challenged the decision of the government by which joint director M Nageswara Rao, a 1986-batch Odisha cadre Indian Police Service officer, has been given charge as head of the probe agency. According to him the DoPT could not have divested him of the powers without the mandate of the high-powered committee led by the Prime Minister and comprising the leader of the Opposition and chief justice of India. Under the law it is this committee that appoints and approves the transfer of a CBI director.
“Over the recent past, although all functionaries within CBI from the investigating officer and the superintending officers up to the Joint Director and the Director have agreed on a certain course of action, the Special Director has been of a different view,” he said, referring to Asthana. Hurdles posed by Asthana, Verma said, have now been compounded by his complicity in “concocting evidence” to impugn the director’s reputation. This had led to registration of a separate FIR, which Asthana has challenged in the Delhi high court.
“As matters stood thus, CVC (Central Vigilance Commission) and the Central Government have overnight taken the impugned decisions to divest the petitioner of his complete role as Director CBI and to appoint another individual in his stead. These actions are patently illegal for the reasons,” the petition stated.
Recalling various SC judgements, Verma said the present actions give serious credence to the requirement that the agency be given independence from the DoPT. Any illegal interference of the present nature not only erodes the independence of the institution but also the morale of its officers, he added.
Also watch: Opposition Draws Rafale Link: What Led To CBI Chief Being Set On Leave?
(Provided by NDTV 24×7)