Rakesh Asthana and Alok Verma
Rakesh Asthana and Alok Verma

SC to hear Verma’s plea challenging order to send him on leave on Friday

Alok Verma had challenge the government order removing him as director of the Central Bureau of Investigation

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to hear Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) director Alok Verma’s petition, challenging the centre’s order to send him on leave. A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said the matter will be heard on Friday.

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

“The CBI ought to be insulated from the government, the present actions give serious credence to the requirement that the CBI be given independence from the DoT which seriously hinders the independent functioning of the institution," the plea stated. Verma is being represented by senior counsel Gopal Sankaranarayanan.

It also said that the high powered committee, comprising the Prime Minister, leader of opposition and chief justice of India, was not consulted by the centre before appointing M. Nageshwar Rao as the new director.

On Wednesday, Verma and special director Rakesh Asthana were sent on leave with immediate effect. In an order, the appointments committee of the cabinet said that Nageshwar Rao, who was serving as a joint director of the CBI, had been appointed as interim director of the agency.

A section of the CBI headquarters in New Delhi was sealed on Wednesday morning, and the cases under both Verma and Asthana were passed on to Rao.

On Tuesday, the Delhi high court had asked the CBI to provide a copy of the first information report (FIR) mentioning the various criminal provisions under which Asthana and deputy superintendent of police Devender Kumar were booked. Justice Najmi Waziri, who was hearing the case, ordered a status quo till 29 October.

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On Monday evening, CBI sleuths had arrested Kumar, the investigating officer of a CBI special investigation team (SIT), probing money-laundering charges against controversial Hyderabad-based meat exporter Moin Qureshi.

Kumar was charged with falsifying the statement of another Hyderabad-based businessman, Sathish Sana, who is a key witness in the Qureshi case, to implicate Verma.

Tuesday’s supplementary chargesheet against Asthana is related to the 15 October case of criminal conspiracy and corruption filed by the CBI against him. Asthana has spearheaded several important investigations such as those into the AgustaWestland scam, the Bihar fodder scam, the coal scam and the probe against liquor baron Vijay Mallya.

He was also probing the INX Media case, allegedly involving former Union minister P. Chidambaram, as well as the IRCTC tender issuance case, involving former Bihar chief minister Lalu Prasad Yadav.