The Supreme Court’s verdict on Friday ordering a speedy CVC inquiry on allegations of bribery against CBI Director Alok Verma and restricting government appointee interim CBI chief M Nageswar Rao from taking any major policy decisions until the SC next hears the matter on November 12 is perceived as a strict yet obliquely apex court rule to forewarn the government for its interference in the independence of the agency. The CVC’s probe will be overseen by retired Supreme Court judge AK Patnaik.
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala wrote on Twitter, “Truth prevails in Supreme Court. Modi Government’s sinister attempt to capture CBI through lackeys falls flat. A slap in face of tyrants who wanted to pin the last nail in CBI’s independence. CVC can’t act as Modi Government’s pawn but would be supervised by a SC judge to act fairly.”
In the aftermath of the infighting between CBI Chief Alok Verma and CBI Special Director Rakesh Asthana, the Narendra Modi-led central government took the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet approved decision to send both the officials on leave late on Tuesday night. At the instant, the decision was not taken unquestionably by the netizens. Questions were raised upon if Verma is illegally and unconstitutionally removed from his post! Lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan wrote on Twitter, “PM has no authority to send CBI director on leave as his tenure is protected. It is not CBI vs CBI. It is CBI versus a corrupt officer planted in the CBI by the PMO.”
The discord within CBI is at its highest point now and the hashtags like #ModiseCBIBachao started massively trending on social media since Friday morning with Congress taking the lead to accusing the government of suspending Verma only to stop the investigation on Rafale deal scam. The party also staged their protest outside Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) offices across India demanding the reinstatement of the premier investigative agency’s director Alok Verma. Following that, Congress President Rahul Gandhi and other leaders were arrested.
Former Mumbai Congress chief Janardhan Chandurkar asserted, “If the government had allowed the CBI to function smoothly, then why would Congress have held protests? The CBI is working under the pressure of the PM and wrong decisions are bound to be taken in such scenario. The protests held by us were very effective. There should not be any political interference in the functioning of CBI.”
The ruling government welcomed the Friday’s SC decision as “extremely positive development”. Now, to know how it is justified to say that the Modi government has undermined the reputation of the institutions like CBI and CVC, we have to go back to 1997. The tenure of the CBI director was not fixed and they could be removed by the government in any manner before 1997. Later, in Vineet Narain judgment, the SC fixed the tenure of the CBI Director to a minimum of two years for allowing the officer to work with independence.
Keeping this in consideration and especially at a time when the Chief himself is alleging the government for its interference in a ‘completely independent and autonomous’ institution and challenging its removal in the SC, how will the government now give grounds for its decision to remove CBI Chief Verma from his post? Verma also challenged the decision of the government by which joint director M Nageswar Rao, a 1986-batch Odisha cadre IPS officer, has been appointed as interim chief of the agency. As per a report published in Afternoon Voice dated October 24, 2018, Rao getting new designation in the CBI is too tainted with controversy as many have called him another black sheep in the CBI backed by BJP Telangana. Moreover, as per sources, even after being tarnished with corruption charges in his parent cadre Odisha, Rao’s closeness to native Telugu speaking officers helped him to be inducted into the CBI with an active recommendation by former union minister Venkaiah Naidu.
BJP MLA Atul Save said, “The Modi government is doing a good job. If somebody is indulging in corruption, action must be taken against him.” When asked about the Supreme Court directing CBI’s interim director M Nageshwar Rao to not take any major policy decisions, he replied, “This issue is concerned with the central government. Since the matter is sub judice, I won’t make any comments about it.”
The entire feud in CBI shot up last week after Alok Verma filed an FIR against Asthana alleging him to have demanded a Rs 5 crore bribe from a Hyderabad-based businessman through middlemen in order to help him be out of trouble in controversial meat exporter Moin Qureshi case, in which Asthana was heading the Special Investigation Team. Asthana too accused Verma of attempts to thwart investigations in important cases while the CBI has already issued a statement defending Verma.