On 8th January, The Supreme Court of India reinstated Alok Verma as the chief of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) after three months of ‘forced leave’ from the job. However, his fortunes were jinxed as he was dismissed from the job within 48 hours of his re-appointment on 10th January. The verdict was taken by a 3 member committee headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Why the forced Leave
In October 2018, The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) was asked to intervene as the central government decided to strip Verma off his position and relieved from all his duties after a bitter squabble between him and CBI Special Director Rakesh Asthana, was dragged into the public judiciary domain. Both had accused one another of bribery and corruption.
On October 23rd, Additional director M Nageshwar Rao was appointed as the interim chief of CBI in the mean-time, to control the reigns of India’s primary investigative body while there was a clear conflict of interest between its leaders.
Verma belongs to the 1979 batch of the Indian Police Service (IPS) officers. He was appointed as the Chief in 2017 for a term of two years that ended on January 31st, 2019. However, just a few months before the completion of his term, he was accused of corruption by co-worker Asthana. Interestingly, Verma accused Asthana of the same. Soon, the CVC stepped in and a probe was started. An FIR was filed against both officers.
On October 22, the High court asked CBI and Verma to give their opinions after Asthana moved to court for seeking dismissal of the FIR filed against him and to prevent CBI from taking further actions against him. In the meantime, the government decided to send Verma on compulsory leave.
The Supreme Court intervenes
Soon after, a non-profit group moved the case to the Supreme Court with a plea to set up a Special Investigative Team (SIT) to probe the case. The apex court directed the CVC to complete their probe within two weeks and restricted the interim CBI chief from taking any major decisions. After Verma challenged his removal in the Supreme Court, the government informed the court that the decision to remove him was taken in order to restore the normalcy of the investigating body. It was a ‘necessary’ step as per the ruling government.
On January 8th, the Supreme Court gave its final verdict and reappointed Verma by dismissing the Central government’s October decision. This verdict was taken by a bench comprising of Chief Justice of India(CJI) Ranjan Gogoi, Justice S.K Kaul and K.M Joseph.
In its verdict, the bench restricted Verma from taking any major decisions until a high-powered committee took a final decision regarding the future of his career. However, Verma’s first move after being reinstated was to transfer 13 CBI officers who were moved from their positions by interim chief Nageshwar Rao.
PM-led committee dismisses Verma
The CVC report mentioned eight charges against Verma. The 3-member committee included Lok Sabha Congress Leader Mallikarjun Kharge, Justice AK Sikri, appointed nominee by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The verdict was declared after a two-hour meeting concluded with a 2:1 majority was in favor of dismissing Verma.
Kharge opposed and presented a dissent note requesting the committee to allow Verma to present his case in response to the charges mentioned in the report. However, the Prime Minister and Justice Sikri denied resulting in the removal of Verma from his position 20 days before his official retirement.
While Verma was asked to serve as the Director General of Fire Service, Civil Defence & Home Guards after being transferred from the CBI, Verma sent a letter dated 11th January to Shri Chandramouli, Secretary of the Department of Personnel & Training stating reasons for his resignation from all posts. The letter was accessed by the Press Trust of India (PTI).
While the ruling government has lauded this decision, the opposition has heavily criticized the same and accused the Prime Minister of declaring his will without fairly and comprehensively evaluating the case.
Sources: TOI, Indian Express, The Quint
Image Credits: Firstpost, PTI