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CBI Director Alok Verma in a fix

Ever since the massive rift within the CBI came out in the open, the daily unfolding drama is far off from taking a back seat. Hearing the legal feud that involves incumbent CBI Director Alok Verma and Special Director Rakesh Asthana who have charged corruption charges on each other and was asked to step down till the time the probe against them is completed, the Supreme Court on Friday observed that the Central Vigilance Commission’s (CVC) probe report has been “very uncomplimentary” on certain charges levelled against Verma by Asthana.

The observation from the top court came while it was hearing Verma’s plea challenging the government’s order divesting him of his duties and sending him on leave in view of corruption charges against him. Following that, the apex court had issued notices to the Centre and the CVC seeking replies on Verma’s petition.

Subsequently, the Supreme Court received a preliminary probe report on Alok Verma in a sealed cover from the Central Vigilance Commission on Friday; the higher court also accepted a sealed-cover report from M Nageshwar Rao, the interim chief of the CBI, on the decisions he’d taken between October 23 and 26.

The SC’s obiter dictum following the CVC inquiry supervised by former top court judge AK Patnaik is enough to keep Verma in a fix. Keeping the hope of CBI chief getting a clean chit hanging in the middle, the Chief Justice Rajan Gogoi-led apex court bench decided to share a copy of the report with Verma to enable him to file his response to the report in a sealed cover before 1 pm on Monday as the court will hear the case next on November 20. It further charged the CVC stating that it has asked for more time to investigate certain charges.

“Once we will have your (Verma) response, we will take a decision,” the CJI asserted. Moreover, the SC declined a plea by senior lawyer Mukul Rohatgi, who appeared for Rakesh Asthana, for giving him a copy of the report as well.

“We have gone through the report. It is very exhaustive. It was complimentary on some charges, not so complimentary on some charges and very uncomplimentary on some charges against him,” Justice Gogoi proclaimed during the proceedings on Friday.

Challenging the case of irregularities filed against him, CBI director Verma too has accused the CVC Commissioner KV Chowdary of bias and violating the SC order. Besides that, Verma has equally blamed the Modi government for the entire drama that disrupted India’s top investigation agency. As per the sources, Verma attacked Asthana for fabricating charges against him to divert attention from his involvement in the bribery case.

The Verma-Asthana rift started in October 2017 when Verma, during a meeting of the five-member CVC, objected to Asthana’s promotion as Special Director. The reputation of the Central Bureau of Investigation has crashed deep down after Alok Verma recently 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.

Narendra Modi-led government’s decision to divest Alok Verma in a midnight-decision and commissioning M Nageshwar Rao as the interim CBI Director was slammed by the Opposition parties. A detailed story by Afternoon Voice — “M Nageshwar Rao – CBI to fight corruption with corrupted?” — stresses on why 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.

While Congress called it “the ‘last nail’ into the independence of CBI” and interpreted Verma’s keenness to probe the ‘layers of corruption’ in the Rafale deal scam as a possible reason behind his sacking, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury termed the removal as “illegal”. Delhi Chief Minister and AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee too voiced their acrimony.

Congress MLC Bhai Jagtap expressed, “The most corrupted official Rao, who was with PM Modi during his reign in Gujarat, is appointed as the interim CBI Director which is against the Constitution. If someone is trying to malign or target Alok Verma for their political purpose, it is unfair! The entire nation wants to know why such a haste decision was taken. The faith that citizens had for CBI, has been destroyed with the ongoing feud.”

Defending the government, BJP spokesperson Madhu Chavan stated, “I believe that our Prime Minister will not take any anti-constitutional decision and whatever order the Supreme Court passes, will be obeyed.” On asking further regarding the case, he chose to remain silent.

The public confidence on the country’s premier investigative agency has received enough blows so far and the crisis has got transformed into a political controversy. With excessive fuel into the fire, now, the entire nation fixes eyes on November 20 for a solutive direction on the bitter battle case!

Maj Gen (R) AJB Jaini said, “Firstly, the democratic institutions such as SC, CVC, CBI are the strongest pillars of any democracy. I am personally a voter of BJP and I think that since the government has come to the power, the democratic institutions or those trying to go against the government, are getting attacked. Just the way Raghuram Rajan was sacked, the similar is happening with Alok Verma.”

“This internal conflict in the CBI is a big blow to the democracy. However, all these are leading towards the loss of reputation leaving a bad impression and loss of faith amongst the common people,” he added.

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