Soon after the Supreme Court today reinstated exiled CBI Director Alok Verma, the opposition parties came out with sharp criticism of the Modi government for not following the rule book when sending the CBI chief and his deputy on forced leave three months ago.
The opposition parties have right from the inception, when the government ordered Mr. Verma and his deputy Rakesh Asthana to go on leave in a midnight swoop, alleged that the center was trying to interfere in the functioning of the country’s top investigation agency.
“SC reinstating CBI director Alok Verma is a direct indictment of the PM. Modi govt has ruined all institutions and democracy in our country. Wasn’t CBI director illegally removed at midnight to stall the probe in Rafale scam which directly leads to PM himself?” Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party national convenor Arvind Kejriwal tweeted.
Though Mr. Verma can return to his office, he cannot take any important policy decisions, for now, the Supreme Court said. A high-powered selection committee comprising Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Leader of Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge and Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi should meet and decide on the CBI chief’s status within a week, the court said.
The Congress also lost no time in reacting to the Supreme Court judgment.
“We’re not against one individual. The Supreme Court judgment is a lesson for the government. Today, you will use these agencies to put pressure on people, tomorrow someone else will, what will happen to democracy then?” Mr. Kharge said.
The Modi government last month told the Supreme Court that the two top officers of the Central Bureau of Investigation had to be leased of their powers as they were “fighting like Kilkenny cats”.
Mr. Asthana remains on forced leave. There is also no decision on the transfers.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley alleged that the government is yet to read the judgment of the Supreme Court but defended the government’s move. “The government had taken this action of sending two senior officers of the CBI on leave on the recommendation of the CVC (Central Vigilance Commission),” he told reporters today. “The court apparently has strengthened the immunity given to the CBI director in the larger interest of the fair and impartial working of the CBI. At the same time, the court has devised an accountability mechanism. The directions of the court will obviously be complied with,” he said.
The Supreme Court had also asked Mr. Verma to reply to a vigilance report on him in a sealed envelope. The vigilance inquiry followed corruption charges swapped by Mr. Verma and Rakesh Asthana. The CBI Director was accused by Mr. Asthana of taking a bribe from a Hyderabad-based businessman being investigated by the agency. Mr. Verma has accused Mr. Asthana of the same crime.