File Photo: Supreme Court of India
File Photo: Supreme Court of India

CBI vs CBI: Centre intervened to restore public confidence in the institution, SC told

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta argued that the central govt was empowered to make a reference to the CVC for inquiry against CBI officials

New Delhi: Attorney General, K.K. Venugopal told the Supreme Court today that the Centre intervened in the fight between top officials at the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in order to restore public confidence in the institution.

“The central government was concerned with what was happening at the CBI because two top officers were in a spat that went public. This resulted in television channels having a field day and exposing the institution to ridicule. Our job is to see that public confidence in the CBI is restored," he said.

He added that under provisions of the Central Vigilance Commission Act, 2003, division of powers was between the commission and the government.

On behalf of the CVC, solicitor general Tushar Mehta argued that the central govt was empowered to make a reference to the CVC for inquiry against CBI officials. The only limitation the CVC faces is that it cannot ask the CBI to decide a case in a particular manner, he added.

At an earlier hearing, Venugopal had justified the government’s decision to divest CBI director Alok Verma of his powers without a nod from a committee comprising the Prime Minister, Chief Justice of India and leader of the Opposition. He highlighted that the committee’s mandate was expired after recommending names for the post of CBI director.

The government’s decision of ousting Verma was opposed by his lawyer and eminent jurist Fali Nariman, who relied on a 1997 judgment (Vineet Narain vs Union of India) that laid down guidelines on the functioning of the CVC and the CBI.

The apex court was hearing a batch of petitions, including one by the Prashant Bhushan-led non-governmental organization Common Cause, which has challenged the order sending the CBI director on leave and divesting him of powers. Verma, in his plea, said the Centre’s action was “patently illegal" and in violation of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946, which provided the CBI director a two-year term.

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