New Delhi: A day after Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) chief was reinstated by the Supreme Court, with his policy-decision making powers yet to be decided upon by the selection committee, the panel will meet on Wednesday evening with a week given to the members to come to a conclusion.
On his first day back on the job, Alok Verma reversed all transfer postings that interim chief Nageshwar Rao had taken.
With less than three weeks to go for Alok Verma’s retirement, Verma is still not out of trouble despite being reinstated, with the panel yet to discuss the Central Vigilance Commission’s (CVC) report on the bribery and graft charges against Verma. Should the panel give him a clean-chit, Verma’s complete decision making authority will be restored.
People familiar with the developments said CVC KV Chaudhary will brief the panel on the developments in the case, along with Alok Verma’s reply to the CVC during the investigation procedure.
The selection panel comprising Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Justice A.K. Sikri and leader of Opposition Mallikarjun Khargis was formed after Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi nominated Justice Sikri’s name to the panel earlier on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India Gogoi set aside the government order of 23 October divesting Verma of his powers and appointing CBI joint director Nageshwar as the interim chief after Verma was sent on leave. Accordingly, Verma was reinstated as the director of the CBI but was barred from taking any fresh policy decisions till the high-powered committee reviewed CVC’s findings against him.
The main issue for consideration before the apex court was whether the government should have consulted the high-powered committee before sending Alok Verma on leave.
Highlighting the legislative intent behind certain provisions of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946, the court held that it was to ensure “complete insulation of the office of the director, CBI from all kinds of extraneous influences and uphold the integrity and independence of the institution of the CBI as a whole".
The Centre, through attorney general K.K. Venugopal, had justified the government’s decision of not seeking the approval of the high-powered committee on the ground that the committee’s mandate was limited to recommending names for the post of the CBI director. He claimed that the government’s intervention was made in public interest and the primary concern was to protect people’s faith and restore confidence in the CBI as public opinion was becoming negative because of the fight between Alok Verma and Rakesh Asthana.
The apex court had ruled on a batch of petitions, including one filed by Prashant Bhushan-led non-governmental organisation Common Cause, who had challenged the order of sending the CBI director on leave and divesting him of all 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.