The Supreme Court, hearing CBI director Alok Verma’s petition against his removal, said the CVC probe will be monitored by ex-SC judge A.K. Patnaik.
New Delhi: The Supreme Court Friday ordered the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) to complete its investigation into bribery and misconduct allegations against CBI director Alok Verma in two weeks. Former Supreme Court judge A.K. Patnaik will supervise the probe, the court said.
A three-judge bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi was hearing a plea filed by Verma Wednesday against the government order to divest him of his charge as CBI director.
The court also said joint director M. Nageshwar Rao, made acting director by the Narendra Modi government as an “interim measure” for the duration of the CVC probe, will not take any policy decisions, and limit his role to administrative tasks.
When solicitor general Tushar Mehta, representing the CVC, sought more time for the investigation in view of the Diwali break, CJI Gogoi rejected the argument, saying there was no Diwali break for the CBI and the CVC.
The bench said a list of all the decisions taken so far by Rao as acting director, including the transfer of investigations and officers, should be furnished in court in a sealed cover on 12 November, adding that the court will pass “appropriate orders” after that.
The court added that judicial supervision for a CVC inquiry was a one-time exception.
The Narendra Modi government had stripped Verma and Asthana of their charge Wednesday amid an intensifying faceoff between the top two officials of India’s premier investigative agency.
Justifying the move, the government had said it was an interim arrangement till the CVC, a supervisory agency for the CBI, completed its probe into the bribery and misconduct allegations Verma and Asthana have lobbed at each other.
The tussle between the two hit headlines Tuesday as the CBI booked Asthana for allegedly extorting money from suspects under investigation by the agency, in collusion with meat exporter Moin Qureshi. A suspected aide, CBI deputy superintendent of police Devender Kumar, was arrested for allegedly tampering with a complaint against Asthana to frame Verma.
The complaint was filed by a Hyderabad-based businessman named Sathish Sana, who said Asthana had sought a bribe from him in exchange for relief in a CBI probe.
‘Loss of credibility and reputation’
Asthana and Kumar immediately moved the Delhi High Court, saying the CBI FIR was an attempt by Verma to “hide his own misconduct”. They added that Sana’s complaint followed their investigation against him, and that it was Verma who was actually accepting bribes to influence cases.
The Centre then divested Asthana and Verma of their charge, saying “the grave allegations of corruption by senior functionaries of CBI one against another, which has been widely reported in media, has vitiated the official eco-system of the organisation”.
“The environment of faction feud has reached its peak in the CBI leading to a potential loss of credibility and reputation of the premier investigating agency of the government,” it added.
It then appointed CBI joint director M. Nageshwar Rao as interim director, saying the decision would hold “till the CVC concludes its inquiry into all issues which have given rise to the present extra-ordinary and unprecedented situation and till the CVC and/or government of India takes an appropriate decision in accordance with the law as regards to the measures to be adopted as a consequence thereof”.
The CBI, in a statement issued Thursday evening, reiterated the Centre’s stand, adding that Verma and Asthana were still, officially, the director and the special director, respectively.
An earlier version of the report said the court had set a 10-day deadline for the CVC probe. However, the court had set a two-week deadline for the investigation to be completed. The error is regretted.
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