Law

CJI Gogoi Withdraws From Panel Meet Headed By Prime Minister On Alok Verma Fate

The prime minister, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge and Justice A.K. Sikri – the CJI's nominee – are also expected to decide on the next CBI chief to succeed Alok Verma.

New Delhi: Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi has dropped out of the high-powered selection panel that is to decide Alok Verma’s case as he was a member of the Supreme Court bench that reinstated Verma as CBI director on Tuesday.

Instead, the CJI has nominated Justice A.K. Sikri to replace him on the panel, which also includes Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the leader of the largest opposition party – Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge.

The panel, beyond deciding Verma’s future, is also expected to deliberate and select the next CBI chief to succeed Verma as he is due to retire on January 31.

Also read: Full Text: The Supreme Court’s Judgment Reinstating CBI Director Alok Verma

After 77 days of forced leave, Verma finally resumed office as CBI director on Wednesday.

Amidst reports that Modi was keen to convene the panel’s meeting as early as Wednesday evening, senior advocate Prashant Bhushan tweeted his apprehensions over the rush, saying the government wanted to forestall any action by the CBI director on a complaint alleging corruption in the Rafale deal.

A much-criticised late-night order on October 23, 2018, had sent Verma and his deputy special director Rakesh Asthana, booked by the agency on corruption charges, into exile in a first-of-its-kind move by the government in the agency’s history.

In sending Verma on leave, the government overlooked the immunity given to the CBI director by the Supreme Court, ensuring a two-year minimum tenure to protect the incumbent from any political interference.

Alok Verma arriving at the CBI office on Wednesday. Credit: PTI

The government tried to justify its decision, saying it became necessary amid an unprecedented feud between the two senior-most officials of the agency who had levelled charges of corruption on each other, an argument rejected by the apex court Tuesday.

The government had given charge to then joint director M. Nageswara Rao who was later promoted as additional director in the agency.

Also read: All You Need to Know About the CBI Tussle, Through The Wire’s Coverage

Verma had challenged the move in the Supreme Court which clipped the powers of Rao as director in-charge and barred him from taking any major policy decision till a final order comes from it.

In its order Tuesday, the Supreme Court set aside Verma’s forced leave but restrained him from taking any major policy decision till the CVC probe into corruption charges against him is over.In the absence of any clear definition of “major policy” decisions, the grey area exists as to what extent Verma’s powers will be limited.

(With inputs from PTI)

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