National

CBI Vs CBI: Supreme Court Reinstates CBI Chief In Major Setback For Govt, Can't Take Major Policy Decisions

PRERNA YADAV | 2
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| January 8 , 2019 , 11:33 IST

The Supreme Court on Tuesday reinstated Alok Verma as Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Director and set aside Centre's decision divesting him of his powers and sending him on leave.

The court, however, said that Verma won’t be allowed to take any major policy decisions until the Central Vigilance Commission inquiry is completed.

Reading out the verdict authored by CJI Ranjan Gogoi, judge SK Kaul says the CBI director has to be the role model of the agency’s independence. “Public interest is paramount in ensuring the independence of the CBI,” the verdict says.

On Alok Verna's pleas, Supreme Court said today that the government should have referred to the Select Committee consisting of the Chief Justice of India, Prime Minister and Leader of Opposition to initiate Verma’s removal.

The judgment authored by CJI Ranjan Gogoi, which was read out by Justice Kaul in his absence, held that the word "transfer" has to be understood as encompassing all acts which affect the independent functioning of CBI Director.

Thus, the judge overruled the contention of the Attorney General that the action against Verma cannot be regarded as "transfer" or "removal", as he was merely taken off charge.

Alok Verma is set to retire in February. The allegations and probe could ruin Asthana's chances of being the CBI's top boss. The infighting escalated when Asthana complained to Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) alleging that the CBI director had stopped raids on Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Yadav in Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation or IRCTC scam.

In its counter, the CBI pointed out to the CVC that the issue relating to the IRCTC case was brought before the Supreme Court twice, but it was dismissed.

In an unexpected overnight decision on October 23, the Modi government had divested Verma of his powers as CBI Director and sent him on forced leave. Alok Verma and his deputy Rakesh Asthana were both sent on leave in October amid a bitter feud between the CBI's top two.

Verma, whose two-year tenure as CBI director will end on January 31, termed the government order illegal and challenged it in the Supreme Court.

Reacting to the verdict, senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said the "CBI chief was removed as he was not doing what the government wanted him to do". Co-petitioner Prashant Bhushan said despite restoring Verma, the court had said he could not take any major policy decision before the high-powered committee takes a final call. He added that it was a "partial victory" for Verma.