New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday reserved its judgment on the petition filed by CBI director Alok Verma and NGO Common Cause against the Centre’s decision to divest him of powers and send him on leave.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi concluded the arguments on behalf of Verma, Centre, Central Vigilance Commission and others who were party in the matter.
In October, Verma along with special director Rakesh Asthana was sent on leave after the two levelled allegations of corruption against each other.
The apex court bench earlier in the day said Attorney General K.K. Venugopal told it that circumstances culminating in the situation started in July.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Central Vigilance Commission, referred to apex court judgements and laws governing the CBI.
The apex court said it was not that the fight between the CBI director and Special Director Rakesh Asthana emerged overnight, forcing the government to divest the director of powers without consulting the Selection Committee. It further said the government has to be “fair” and asked what the difficulty was in consulting the Selection Committee before divesting the CBI director of his power. The bench also questioned the government as to why a larger panel was not constituted in the decision to send the CBI officials on leave.
The bench also raised the issue regarding the permanency of the CBI director’s tenure, while the attorney general said that the government was well within its rights to change the terms of his service by transferring him.
The CBI director and the special director were fighting like “Kilkenny cats”, exposing the country’s premier investigating agency to “public ridicule”, the government told the Supreme Court on Wednesday while justifying the decision to divest Verma of his duties.
Attorney General (AG) K.K. Venugopal also told the top court that the government was well “within its right to intervene” and send both officers on leave by divesting them of their powers.
The top law officer asserted that “only the God knows where and how this fight between the two top officers would have ended” if the government would not have taken the action which was aimed at restoring the public faith in the CBI.
The CVC asserted that its decision to send Verma on leave was because the CBI Director did not provide documents for months. “Extraordinary situations need extraordinary remedies,” the Central Vigilance Commission told the Supreme Court.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the CVC, referred to apex court judgements and laws governing the CBI and said the Commission’s superintendence (over the CBI) encompasses “surprise, extraordinary situations”. Mehta told the court that the top officers of the CBI, “instead of investigating cases, were investigating cases against each other”.
He said the jurisdiction vested in CVC to inquire or else it would have been guilty of dereliction of duty. If it did not act, it would be answerable to the president of India and the Supreme Court, he added.
He said the reference for inquiry against the CBI director has been sent to him by the government. “CVC started probe but Verma did not give documents for months”, Mehta said.
The court was hearing pleas of Verma, who is challenging the Centre’s decision against him, and NGO Common Cause, seeking a court-monitored SIT probe into allegations of corruption against various CBI officials, including Asthana.
(With PTI inputs)