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In plea to Supreme Court, Alok Verma seeks CBI’s ‘freedom’ from Central govt’s influence

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Alok Verma, who has moved the Supreme Court against his removal as CBI director, said the Central government’s influence was often ‘tacit’.

New Delhi: Former Delhi Police commissioner Alok Verma, who was divested of his charge as CBI director Wednesday, has urged the Supreme Court to “insulate” India’s premier investigation agency from the Centre’s influence.

The Centre’s influence, said Verma, hindered the CBI’s functioning.

Verma made the submission as he approached the Supreme Court against the Centre’s “overnight decision” to send him on leave amid his escalating faceoff with his No. 2 in the CBI, Rakesh Asthana, who has also been sent on leave and divested of his charge as special director.

Also read: Most of the 13 CBI officers transferred are from ousted chief Alok Verma’s ‘camp’

Advocate Gopal Shankarnarayan, representing Verma, mentioned the issue before Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi Wednesday, following which the case was listed for hearing Friday.

“It is submitted that not all influence that is exerted by the political government would be found explicitly or in writing,” the plea states. “More often than not, it is tacit, and requires considerable courage to withstand.

“As the CBI is expected to function completely independently and autonomously, there are bound to be occasions when certain investigations into high functionaries do not take the direction that may be desirable to the government,” it adds.

“Over the recent past, although all functionaries within the CBI, from the investigating officer and the superintending officers up to the joint director and the director, have agreed on a certain course of action, the special director has been of a different view,” the plea states, adding that Asthana had interfered with the investigation in certain cases.

“The hurdles posed by this individual have now been compounded by his complicity in concocting evidence to impugn the reputation of the petitioner (Verma)…” the plea reads.

Both Verma and Asthana have accused each other of taking bribes from suspects in exchange for relief from CBI investigations. This ugly sparring match between the two breached the agency’s usual wall of secrecy when, two days ago, Asthana was booked by the CBI in the case.

Verma also pointed out in his plea that he had opposed Asthana’s appointment as CBI special director last year.

Midnight drama in the CBI

In a surprising late-night decision, the Narendra Modi government divested Verma of his charge and gave it to joint director M. Nageshwar Rao “with immediate effect”. Verma and Asthana have both been asked to proceed on leave until further orders.

By late Wednesday morning, several other CBI officers were transferred as well, including A.K. Bassi, the officer investigating corruption charges against Asthana.

Also read: Inside story of the Gujarati tycoons at the heart of the CBI crisis

Earlier, in a letter to the Central Vigilance Commission, Asthana had accused Bassi of conducting a “roving inquiry” against him and his family at Verma’s behest.

In an order dated 24 October, the department of personnel and training (DoPT) said Verma and Asthana would remain divested of their duties till the CVC concluded its “inquiry into all the issues which have given rise to the present extraordinary and unprecedented situation”.

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