New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday placed the Central Vigilance Commission’s (CVC’s) corruption allegation probe into sidelined Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) director Alok Verma under the supervision of retired Supreme Court judge A.K. Patnaik and told the commission to wind up the inquiry in two weeks.

The court also barred newly-appointed CBI interim director M. Nageswara Rao from taking any policy or major decision and ordered him to perform only routine tasks that are essential to keep the CBI functioning.

Rao was told to submit in a sealed cover a list of all decisions he has taken since 23 October, when he was made interim director, regarding transfers and change of investigating officers.

“We make it clear that entrustment of supervision of on-going inquiry by the CVC to a former judge of this court is a one-time exception that has been felt necessary by this court in the peculiar facts of this case and should not be understood to be casting any reflection on any authority of the government of India," the order stated.

The court was hearing two petitions, one by Verma and another by Prashant Bhushan-led NGO Common Cause, challenging the order sending Verma on forced leave and divesting him of all powers. The court also issued notices to the Centre on both petitions.

Senior advocate Fali S. Nariman, appearing for Verma, cited a 1997 judgement (Vineet Narain vs Union of India) that laid down guidelines on the functioning of the CVC and the CBI.

The CVC, through solicitor-general Tushar Mehta, sought more time to conduct the inquiry, saying two weeks would not be enough. “Considering the nature and load of this issue, this time will not be sufficient as there are many documents we will have to go through and there is Diwali in between," Mehta said.

Calling the Centre’s action “patently illegal", Verma, in his plea, said it was in violation of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946, which gives the CBI director a two-year term.

“The CBI ought to be insulated from the government. The present actions give serious credence to the requirement that the CBI be given independence," the plea said.

It also said that the high-powered committee comprising the Prime Minister, leader of the opposition and Chief Justice of India was not consulted by the Centre before appointing Rao as the interim director.

On Wednesday, Verma and CBI’s special director Rakesh Asthana were sent on leave. In an order, the appointments committee of cabinet said Rao, who was a joint director of the CBI, had been appointed as interim director.

The case will be heard next on 12 November.

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