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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

PILs Galore as SC restricts CBI to ‘routine’ tasks, starts monitoring ongoing CVC inquiry

Supreme Court has asked the interim CBI Director MN Rao to avoid ‘major or policy’ decisions and only perform the ‘routine tasks’ essential to keep the CBI functional, reports Bar & Bench. It also appointed retd. SC judge AK Patnaik to ‘supervise’ the ongoing CVC (Chief Vigilance Commission) probe against CBI Director Alok Verma and ordered the probe to be completed within 2 weeks.

CBI Director Alok Verma and his deputy, Special Director Rakesh Asthana have been at loggerheads for some time now, with both trading charges against each other of taking bribes to scuttle various cases being investigated by CBI such as Moin Quereshi’s tax evasion, IRCTC scam involving Lalu Yadav, Sandesara group, Sterling Biotech etc.

Rakesh Asthan (l), Alok Kumar (r)

After receiving complaints in August against these senior functionaries of the CBI, CVC served notices to CBI to produce certain documents before the Commission. After these notices were ignored and seeing non-cooperation of the CBI, the CVC – the Constitutional Body governing CBI in so far as it relates to the investigation of offences alleged to have been committed under Prevention of Corruption Act – took a decision to send the two warring officers on leave.

The CVC decided that both Verma and Asthana need to step aside so that a probe could be conducted against the allegations made against the two. The Government agreed with CVC’s evaluation and both officers were divested of their duties and asked to proceed on leave as an interim measure “till the CVC concludes its inquiry into all issues which have given rise to the present extra-ordinary and unprecedented situation and till the CVC and/or Government of India takes an appropriate decision in accordance with the law as regards to the measures to be adopted as a consequence thereof”.

PIL-wallahs at it again

Verma approached the Supreme Court on Wednesday challenging his removal. On Thursday, controversial pro-separatist lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan filed a PIL (‘Public’ Interest Litigation) through the NGO ‘Common Cause’ challenging Verma’s temporary removal and demanding a court-monitored SIT to probe the corruption allegations against senior CBI officials.

The PIL alleged Alok Verma is being victimised for entertaining a complaint against the top functionaries of the present government (it is said that Alok Verma met Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and Prashant Bhushan, who have filed a PIL in SC seeking to direct CBI to investigate their complaint against Rafale deal).

Both petitions case came up for hearing yesterday in front of the CJI Gogoi led SC bench which also includes Judges SK Kaul and KM Joseph . Verma was represented by ’eminent’ lawyer Fali Nariman (his son Rohinton Fali Nariman is also an SC judge) and Sanjay Hegde, both known critics of the Modi Government.

Congress and NGO flip-flop on Alok Verma

Incidentally, the same NGO ‘Common Cause’, which is today supporting Alok Verma for his allegedly unfair dismissal, had unsuccessfully challenged Verma’s appointment as CBI Director in January 2017 through yet another PIL filed in SC by its lawyer Prashant Bhushan, alleging that procedures were not followed in his selection as CBI Director. ‘Common Cause’ was established by HD Shourie, father of Arun Shourie.

Alok Verma was chosen as CBI director by the 3-member collegium of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chief Justice of Bharat JS Khehar, and Congress veteran and leader of the largest Opposition party, Mallikarjun Kharge. Back then, Kharge had opposed Verma’s appointment, but today the same Kharge has sent a ‘strongly worded’ letter to PM Modi objecting to Alok Verma’s temporary removal as CBI boss.

SC has asked interim CBI director MN Rao to submit a list of all decisions taken by him from his appointment on October 23 till date in a sealed cover on or before 12 Nov – the next date of hearing — after which it would pass appropriate orders. The court said supervision of the probe by a former supreme court judge was a “one-time exception” given the “peculiar facts” of the case and does not cast reflection on any authority of the government.

Asthana has also moved the Supreme Court with a separate petition challenging the Centre’s order against him. Former Attorney General of Bharat Mukul Rohatgi would be representing him, and the petition will come up for hearing on Monday.

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