Following the controversial sacking of Alok Verma as director of the Central Bureau of Intelligence (CBI), Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge has written to the Prime Minister, asking him to make the release certain documents into the public domain.
For a quick recap of the series of events, the government sent Verma on forced leave in October last year. This happened after the details of a conflict between him and CBI’s No. 2 officer Rakesh Asthana went public. A probe was led by the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) under the supervision of Retd Justice A.K. Patnaik, to mainly investigate charges of bribery against Verma, leading to an adverse report.
After Verma was re-instated as the CBI chief in January, he re-shuffled several CBI officers who were transferred by the Interim chief Nageshwar Rao in his absence, thereby directly revoking the Supreme Court’s orders which clearly mentioned that Verma shouldn’t take any major decisions without prior approval.
Eventually, the Supreme Court sent the matter to a high-powered committee including PM Narendra Modi, Justice A.K. Sikri and Opposition leader Mallikarjun Kharge. On 10th January, a 2:1 vote led to the ousting of Verma, with Kharge being the only dissenter.
Highlights of the letter
In a letter dated 15th January 2019, Kharge has pointed out several concerns regarding the turn of events. Primarily, he has asked the PM to release the CVC report, Justice Patnaik’s report and the minutes of the meeting that led to Verma’s removal – such that the “public can draw its own conclusion“.
Citing the CVC report, Kharge has mentioned that there was no evidence of the key corruption charges. He has expressed his dissent, stating that the “manipulative actions of the government” were directly responsible for causing a “deep embarrassment to the judiciary”.
“Despite my best efforts to convince the members of the committee that we should be following the due process of law and the principles of natural justice, the members chose to take a decision based on the report that now stands disowned by Justice Patnaik”– Mallikarjun Kharge, Leader of opposition in Lok Sabha
According to PTI, he has also written of how the recent happenings indicate that the government is “scared of a CBI headed by an independent director”. The Congress leader has argued against the committee not giving Verma an opportunity to explain himself regarding the allegations. According to his view, the government seems to be worried about something and that led to the sudden removal of Alok Verma.
Kharge has also opposed the appointment of M Nageshwar Rao as the interim director of CBI, terming it “illegal”. He has demanded the immediate appointment of a new CBI chief.
The controversy continues
In an interview with The Telegraph, former Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur referred to the unprofessional code of conduct used by the high power committee to take a decision in the matter without giving Verma a chance to defend himself.
“The point is if you are taking a decision on the basis of a report which is adverse to an individual, then you must share that report with that individual. You cannot act upon the report which is adverse without disclosing the report to him and without giving him an opportunity to give him representation or without giving an opportunity to present his point of view.”– T.S. Thakur, Former Chief Justice of India
Meanwhile, Justice Patnaik expressed his viewpoint to The Indian Express, calling the committee’s decision “very, very hasty”. The situation has also drawn criticism from legal circles.
Justice Sikri has also come under scrutiny after the government offered him a post-retirement nomination for President of the Commonwealth Tribunal, a highly prestigious post. Critics allege that the government was “rewarding” him for a “favor” since his vote had proved crucial in the committee’s decision. Eventually, Sikri withdrew his interest in the offer.
While the opposition argues the validity of the procedure that led to the removal, the question remains whether the allegations against the director of the country’s most elite investigative agency should have been handled better, with less haste, and the consequent suspicions.
Sources: India Today, Huffington Post, The Telegraph, The Indian Express
Image Credits: Hindustan Times