Alok Verma at CBI Headquarter, New Delhi | Ravi Choudhary/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
File photo of Alok Verma at CBI Headquarters, New Delhi | Ravi Choudhary/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
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The Supreme Court allowed itself to become party to what was essentially a political game of one-upmanship.

In all this debate over Alok Verma and his ouster from the CBI, while the role of the Narendra Modi government has definitely come under the scanner, the Supreme Court too can’t escape the blame. The court allowed itself to become party to what was essentially a political game of one-upmanship.

Ever since the Centre passed the midnight orders on 23-24 October divesting Alok Verma of his powers and sending him on a leave, on the advice of Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), it was clear that the Supreme Court would be expected to play the arbiter in this matter.

But, as has now become a norm rather than an exception, the highest court instead became a party to the dispute, an avoidable necessity.

The day Verma moved the Supreme Court, it was clear that the only question that the court was expected to decide, and decide quickly was: Can the Modi government remove the CBI director without the clearance of the high-level committee (HLC), which comprises the Prime Minister, the leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha, and the Chief Justice of India (CJI)?


Also read: The law does not allow Modi govt to remove CBI chief Alok Verma


But, trust the highest court of the land to lose its way, prompting many to raise questions about its impartiality, before it finally – after 76 days to be exact – answers a question that should have been addressed in less than a week if not 24 hours.

More worrisome is the fact that despite taking such a long time to come to a conclusion, the three-judge bench headed by CJI Ranjan Gogoi left several questions hanging.

At the meeting of the high-level committee Thursday, fixed as per the Supreme Court’s order, Prime Minister Narendra Modi voted for Verma’s removal while Congress’s Lok Sabha legislature party leader Mallikarjun Kharge opposed any immediate action against him without giving him an opportunity to explain his position. The arbiter was senior Supreme Court Judge A.K. Sikri, who was representing the Chief Justice of India at the meeting.

Logically, Justice Sikri should have sided with Kharge on the basis of that one principle that judges hear every other day in the court – the Principle of Natural Justice – which, in plain language, says that no person should be condemned – or punished – without being heard. Or, better still, he could have decided to stay out of the political slugfest and let the politicians settle the issue to the best of their capabilities.

But, the judiciary decided to side with the executive, a seemingly recurring phenomenon these days.

In all this mud-slinging, the one institution that should have come out clean is the judiciary. Instead, it has now the most to answer after Thursday’s decision on Alok Verma.


Also read: Apart from Ram, the Supreme Court is BJP’s best friend in 2019


What about role of CVC, others?

One key factor that led to Verma’s ouster as the CBI chief was that he allegedly attempted to induct tainted officers into the CBI. This was one of the primary arguments in the damning report of the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) against Verma.

Now, one can’t help but wonder if going by the same yardstick, Chief Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) K.V. Chaudhary, the other vigilance commissioners, the home secretary and the secretary in Department of Personnel and Training, who collectively cleared Gujarat-cadre IPS officer Rakesh Asthana’s appointment, who has a dubious past and is facing bribery allegations, should also be shunted out?

But, then rules and yardsticks seem to be different for different people these days.


Also read: All you wanted to know about the war in CBI between Rakesh Asthana and Alok Verma


 

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16 Comments Share Your Views

16 COMMENTS

  1. The recent event in India and particularly in the Supreme Court is very concerning. It seems Justice Gogoi has changed the Justice system. First, it was 76 days wait to decide Alok Verma’s leave matter, whereas it was simple and straight forward case.
    Then he did not bother to go in depth in Rafale case. He simply believed the unsigned document given by the government. Even the Modi government has asked him to amend his judgment in Rafale, quoting that Justice Gogoi misunderstood their document. Now there is no doubt in my mind that he really might have misunderstood the content of the sealed documents. Gogoi seems to be a judge with an average understanding. It is very concerning for the interest of the country and very dangerous for our democracy. Such kind of judges can ruin the future course of a nation.

  2. Is this the same Justice Sikri who delivered a slap on the face of BJP when it wanted 15 days to prove its majority in Karnataka? At that time Justice Sikri was an upright gentleman! Now that a decision of his has gone in favor of BJP, his integrity is questioned! Bizarre.
    Verma had opportunity to present his case before the CVC. In any case, he has not been condemned or punished. As others have pointed out, transferring official is the govt’s prerogative. Period. Govt has simply said since there’s a cloud on this guy’s integrity, let him not be here anymore. Why Delhi journalists are running about like headless chicken?

  3. It’s the prerogative of the government of the day to keep or transfer an officer. They followed due procedure in doing so. Transfer is not a punishment.

    • This is simply not a transfer. There is a lot hidden behind this move. One has to have a good intuition to understand this game plan.

  4. I believe that both CBI officers, the CVC, the government, the SC and the opposition have all contributed to the downfall of the public trust in all their institution. I do not think that the Indian public is sure about who is truthful and what has actually happened since none of the reports have been disclosed to the public. Even higher authorities and the media seem to be unaware of the reports.
    I heard that the SC under Gogoi has started telecasting court proceedings live. If the court proceedings themselves are live, then why aren’t the reports submitted to the court available in the public domain? None of it is a national security issue anyway.
    My demand is that all these reports that are spoken about and how the report reached their conclusions including the procedures followed should be put out in the public domain so that the Indian electorate can decide on who is doing what.

  5. This is so funny. Do you even know how many transfer postings happen in a day in India? Did you check number of transfer posting done by MP and Raj Govt as soon They came to power? From Cabinet Secy to PS, central and state, pls cite 1 time that principle of natural justice is evoked against transfer.

    Alok Verma is not sent to jail that principle of natural justice has to be followed! That too even after investigative agencies have given him opportunity for that!
    Transfer posting doesn’t require any natural justice argument. Alok Verma is bound by his service rules to go anywhere as posted by competent authority (in this case the committee) w/o needing to cite any reason or give any hearing. If there is so much cloud on his actions the committee is very right in determining that is no more capable to discharge his duties at CBI hence simple transferred.

  6. At the end of it, one can see that there is poetic justice inasmuch as both Verma and Asthana have now been denied the opportunity of heading the premier investigating agency of the country. The debates would still continue about the appropriateness of the action taken against Verma. However, keeping the legalities, rules, regulations and procedures aside, can it be denied that both of them indulged in mindless factionalism and mutually destructive internecine war which brought disrepute to the very institution they served? The irony is that both of them were picked by the current government. The Prime Minister cannot deny that he made wrong choices. As the issue gets a tainted closure and the government has to choose new incumbent, at least now, would the government will act with wisdom to make a right choice?

  7. It is clear that Congress and secularists want to use supreme court as it’s tool. They tried to impeach former CJI. The current CJI, who happens to be son of former Congress CM of Assam, went exactly by book in making clear that CBI chief can be removed only by select committee and put Verma back in his position. But seeing the seriousness of accusation court tried to make non-partisan issue by ordering select committee to decide in week. Unfortunately it failed because Congress and secularists are not interested in real corruption issues. They are only interested in making India ungovernable and hope that by doing that they will be back to power Indira Gandhi 1980 style.

  8. Mr Chibber is not privy to what Justice Sikri knew, it has become a habit for Congress leaning journalists to question the SC wen it doesn’t suit them

  9. It is very unfortunate that now the Supreme Court is shown in bad light because the judgement is against you and now you say that Justice Sikri should have sided with Kharge has sided with Government. What is his interest? Indirectly it is as good as saying Government/Modi has put pressure on Justice Sikri. There is a limit for imagination!!!!Person who was favouring a person to smuggle gold and money launderer deserves to be sacked.

  10. “Supreme Court siding with the Government” ? Just go over once more, the comments and gushing appreciation bestowed on the Supreme Court barely a couple of days ago, the moment Verma was restored to the CBI in his post (without certain powers). Was the Court ‘siding with the “Congress” then? Or, with Prashant Bhushan et al? Why was the sane Supreme court then seen as upholding the strongest principles of democracy? Indian TV and Print media has totally lost its balance in reporting, if it ever had any.

  11. Very bizarre reasoning: when SC raps Modi Government, the ‘Liberal’ says ‘we told you so’. When SC gives a judgement against Liberal creed, it cries erosion in its prestige. I believe that SC’s inclusion in the Appointment system of CBI Director is contrary to the ‘separation of power’ as through this crack SC creeps into executive. But why did the Liberal not cry over it when it was legislated many years ago? Simply because it thought SC is it’s own extension and it will keep bashing the executive for it ! Now it did not happen, it cries foul ! So what next ? International Court if Justice? The Liberal is the only Constant and all else is Variable. Liberal is Neo Illiberal in India.

  12. This is really a very puzzling case. I hope the truth comes out. But I do recall the SC mentioning that there were some “VERY uncomplimentary” remarks in CVC’s report. What could they possibly be? Another point is, that the CVC was asked to question Alok Verma IN THE PRESENCE of Justice Pattanaik and submit its report in two weeks to SC. That report was submitted, and apparently, Justice Pattanaik ALSO submitted his report separately to CJI. But then, Mr Kharge has said that Mr Verma should have been given a chance to clarify his position!!

    God alone knows what’s going on here. The writer has a very valid point that if inducting tainted officers by Verma was such a big issue, then what about those who inducted Rakesh Asthana into the CBI in the first place?

    Most important of all: during the 36 hours for which Mr Verma remained the Director, was he able to lay hands on THAT Rafale file which it was feared he will act upon? Or was that file “misplaced” during that period?

    And who will explain Modi ji’s tearing haste in calling this meeting and dismissing Mr Verma before “tomorrow morning”?

  13. Dont be too quick to attribute motives = you seem to have made up your mind. Is it just possible that the Supreme Court was concerned that Mr. Verma refused to answer substantive allegations leveled against him by CVC and erred on the side of caution? CVC is the watchdog over the CBI – it is not up to Mr. Verma to decide to answer or not.

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