A political slug fest followed the 2:1 decision of the three-member high-powered selection panel headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to remove Alok Verma as the chief of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Thursday, Jan 10.
While the Congress and opposition parties argued that Verma should have been given a chance to be heard by the panel, the BJP called the Congress a ‘sore loser’ – practically acknowledging the issue had political significance.
According to a letter issued by the government, Verma has been posted as director general, fire and services, civil defence & home guards for the residual period of his present term, which ends on January 31 this year.
The letter also brings back M Nageshwar Rao as interim director, CBI till the appointment of a new director.
The high-powered panel had held its first meeting on Wednesday. The meeting was inconclusive.
The decision came following the second meeting of the selection panel consisting of PM Modi, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge and Justice AK Sikri, who was nominated by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi to represent him. Kharge was opposed to the move.
Alok Verma, a 1979-batch AGMUT cadre IPS officer, has been removed from the post on charges of corruption and dereliction of duty making him the first chief in the history of the agency to face such action, they said.
There were eight counts of charges against Alok Verma in the CVC report presented before the committee.
Earlier, Supreme Court had reinstated Verma after he was sent on forced leave by the government. The top court had asked the selection panel to decide on the fate of Alok Verma.
SC had asked the government to convene the meeting within a week of its order. It had quashed the government’s unprecedented “overnight” order issued in October last year, stripping Verma of his powers and sending him and his deputy special director Rakesh Asthana on leave after the two traded corruption charges.
Verma, who had been reinstated by the Supreme Court on Tuesday and resumed office on Wednesday, had revoked most of the transfers done by M Nageshwar Rao, who was appointed as the interim CBI chief in his absence.
Corruption and dereliction of duty flagged by the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) in its inquiry report, citing telephone interceptions by external spy agency RAW, led to the exit of Alok Verma as the CBI chief, the first in the probe agency’s over 50-year history.
The Selection Committee considered the CVC report which levelled eight counts of charges against Verma.
The CVC report spoke about the controversial meat exporter Moin Qureshi’s case and claimed that CBI team looking into the case wanted to make Hyderabad-based businessman Sathish Babu Sana an accused in the case but Verma never gave clearance.
The probe in this case was led by special director Rakesh Asthana, who along with Verma was sent on forced leave on October 23.
The CVC claimed that it had found evidence of influencing of probe in the Moin Qureshi case and there were intercepts of RAW that Rs 2 crore had changed hands.
The CVC was of the view that his conduct in the case was suspicious and there was a prima facie case against him, and wanted a criminal investigation to be conducted in the case.
Incidentally, Sana is the complainant for a case registered against Asthana in which he has given graphic details about how he had paid bribe to his middlemen.
He has also mentioned the name of Samanta Goel, the second-in-command at the RAW, of being involved in protecting the middleman, Manoj Prasad.
The other case relates to a Preliminary Enquiry registered by the CBI about acquisition of land in Gurgaon. The CVC alleged that Verma’s name had figured in the case and at least Rs 36 crore had changed hands.
The CVC had recommended a thorough probe into the case.
In the IRCTC case, the CVC felt that it can be reasonably concluded that Verma deliberately excluded a name from the FIR, for reasons best known to him.
The CVC, which has a supervisory role over the CBI, had also alleged that Verma tried to save an officer in the IRCTC case involving former Union minister Lalu Prasad.
The CVC also found instances of wilful non-production of record and fabrication of record.
The CVC also alleged that Verma was trying to bring in tainted officials into the CBI. It claimed that efforts seeking cooperation from the CBI chief did not yield results as he continued to keep the files away from the CVC.
The CVC said that Alok Verma had been given ample opportunity to present his case before the CVC, in presence of Justice (retd) Patnaik.
Media reports quoting sources said the panel, barring Kharge, felt that investigation, including criminal probe, was necessary, in some cases, and his continuation as CBI Director was not desirable, and he should be transferred.
Kharge’s points of dissent:
During the meeting, Kharge strongly argued for giving a chance to Alok Verma to present his case before the committee on the allegations levelled by the CVC against him.
“It is my considered opinion that the CBI director should be allowed to explain himself before this committee along with the charges made against him prior to any decision being taken,” Kharge said.
He also advocated restoration of Verma as CBI director, so as to ensure the independence and neutrality of the CBI.
According to Kharge, there were 10 allegations.
Six were false, four needed further investigations, and four had circumstantial evidence and were “unflattering” to Verma, he said in his note to the committee.
Kharge said there was lack of substantial findings in the CVC report and said that “there was no evidence of payment of bribe” in the Moin Qureshi case. The allegations in the IRCTC case and subsequent charges levelled by the CVC were also not substantiated, the Congress leader said. (Read: CBI Director Verma’s ouster, unanswered questions, Kharge’s note, Rafale and other cases on CBI Director’s table for probe)
Congress reacted sharply to the sacking of Alok Verma and said that the ousted CBI chief should have been given a chance to represent his case in front of the panel.
Hitting out at the Congress over its attack on the Modi government following removal of CBI director Alok Verma on corruption charges, the BJP called it a “sore loser”, saying the party has been left to lick its wounds “after failing to subvert the central probe agency by joining internal personal battles”.
By removing Alok Verma from his position without giving him the chance to present his case, PM Modi has shown once again that he’s too afraid of an investigation, either by an independent CBI director or by Parliament via JPC.
* Yashwant Sinha, former Union minister
Alok Verma has been given the important post of DG Fire services. He should be happy. Now bring Asthana as Director, CBI. That will complete the process of justice. Man Who Destroys Institutions zindabad.
* Sitaram Yechury, CPI(M)
The midnight sacking of CBI Director Alok Verma, and the unseemly hurry to throw him out now is linked to these cases which were on Verma’s table. These cases have wires that go straight to the top in the Modi govt. https://indianexpress.com/article/india/seven-key-files-on-cbi-director-alok-vermas-table-when-he-was-asked-to-go-5417152/ …
An act of deep desperation, high panic and fear by the Modi govt. Anything to keep the Rafale skeleton inside the cupboard. But the truth will come out.
* Dinesh Gundu Rao, President Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee
“Why is Narendra Modi so scared of Alok Verma? This haste shown by our PM displays his nervousness. The stink in the air is palpable. Goes to show that our #ChowkidarChorHai is an apt slogan. Never have seen such a charlatan as the Prime Minister of India.
Chhattisgarh follows Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal, withdraws consent to CBI to probe cases in the state
After Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal, the Congress government in Chhattisgarh on Thursday withdrew the general consent accorded to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to probe cases in the state.
All the three states are ruled by opposition parties and have accused the central agency of acting at the bidding of the Centre, where the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is in power.
CBI comes under the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act and it requires states to give the agency a general consent to act against central government employees within the state as public order and police are under the purview of state governments.
Writing to Union Home Ministry on Thursday, Chhattisgarh Chief minister Bhupesh Baghel said, “First of all in the last few months, the Union government has put the role of CBI under question and hence it will not be correct for us to allow CBI to continue arbitrariness in our state. Secondly, CBI is misusing the federal structure and affecting the law and order in the state.”
“By this order, CBI’s movement in the state is not prohibited but the agency will have to take permission before any operations or raids in Chhattisgarh,” Baghel said.
The Chhattisgarh government had given general permission to the CBI in 2001. The central probe agency will now require the permission of the state government to raid or to probe any fresh case in the state.
Ousted CBI Director Alok Verma breaks his silence
Former CBI director Alok Verma, who was ousted from the agency by a high-powered selection committee Thursday, has said that he was transferred on the basis of “false, unsubstantiated and frivolous allegations” made by only one person, who was inimical to him.
Breaking his silence, Verma in a statement to PTI late on Thursday night said that the CBI, being a prime investigating agency dealing in corruption in high public places, is an institution whose independence should be preserved and protected.
“It must function without external influences. I have tried to uphold the integrity of the institution while attempts were being made to destroy it. The same can be seen from the orders of the central government and the CVC dated October 23, 2018, which were without jurisdiction and were set aside,” he said.
Verma said it was “sad” that he was transferred to another post pursuant to the orders of the committee on the basis of “false, unsubstantiated and frivolous allegations made by only one person, who was inimical to him.”
“I have stood up for the integrity of the institution, and if asked will do it again in order to uphold the rule of law,” he said.
BJP MP Subramanian Swamy opposes Verma’s removal
BJP lawmaker Subramanian Swamy Thursday said CBI Director Alok Verma cannot be removed merely on the basis of a CVC report, without the government hearing him.
He asked the prime minister to not to listen to “bogus legal brains” in the government who had given wrong advice and landed the government in such a situation.
Swamy came to the probe agency’s headquarters to meet Verma, who resumed his duties Wednesday. He told reporters that the CVC (Central Vigilance Commission) report was based on the version of another officer who gave a “false report”.
“It has to be investigated. I don’t think it can be done (Verma can be removed). If Verma is removed problem will get only worse not better. I would like the prime minister to take steps to see that this episode becomes history,” Swamy said.
Swamy, however, said he was not at the probe agency’s office regarding this issue.