The high-power committee headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday removed Alok Verma as CBI Director, a day after he resumed office following the Supreme Court verdict restoring his position.
Congress leader in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, who represents the Opposition in the three-member panel, gave his objections in a six-page note where he argued that Mr. Verma should be “allowed to explain himself before this committee, along with the charges made against him, prior to any decision being taken”.
However, government sources said in the light of the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) report against Mr. Verma, a detailed investigation, including criminal probe, was “necessary” and therefore, his position was untenable.
The Selection Panel recommended Mr. Verma’s transfer after taking into account “extremely serious nature of observation” made by the CVC against him, claimed sources.
In a point-by-point rebuttal, Mr. Kharge had argued that six of the 10 charges levelled against Mr. Verma in the CVC report “are found to be unsubstantiated/false.”
The panel, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Justice A.K. Sikri — the Chief Justice India’s nominee on the panel — was of the opinion that Mr. Verma had been given an opportunity to present his case before the CVC, in the presence of Justice A.K. Patnaik (retired).
The Cabinet Committee on Appointments has now posted Mr. Verma as Director-General, Fire Services, Civil Defence and Home Guards, for the remaining period of his present term that ends on January 31.
Question of integrity
And, until further orders, Additional Director M. Nageswara Rao has again been appointed interim CBI Director. The panel concluded that as the head of a sensitive organisation, “Mr. Verma was not functioning with the integrity expected of him.”
It noted that the CVC had found evidence of influencing investigation in the Moin Qureshi case. Further, a government source claimed there was evidence of a ₹2 crore bribe and in the IRCTC case pertaining to the tenure of former Railway Minister Lalu Prasad, a key name was left out of the FIR, as alleged.
The CVC was of the view that Mr. Verma’s conduct in the case was suspicious, and there was a prima facie case against him. It also “felt” that the entire truth would come out if a criminal investigation was ordered.
The CVC’s report against Mr. Verma was also the basis for the government to send him on forced leave two-and-a-half months ago, following which he approached the Supreme Court.
Reacting to his Mr Verma’s removal, senior Congress Anand Sharma said the high-powered Committee failed to deliver justice and alleged the CVC was under directions of the government.
“Despite the Supreme Court categorically stating that Verma’s removal was illegal, the Modi government is trying to brazen it out. An arrogant Prime Minister thinks he is neither accountable to Parliament nor to the law of the land. Why is there a panic in the government, what is the Prime Minister worried about, what is he doesn't want the CBI to look into?” asked Mr. Sharma
Earlier in the day, Congress president Rahul Gandhi had accused the government of being in a “tearing hurry” to sack Mr. Verma because of Rafale.
“Why is the Prime Minister in such a tearing hurry to sack the CBI chief? Why will he not allow the CBI chief to present his case in front of the selection committee? Answer: Rafale,” Mr. Gandhi tweeted.