Alok Verma, reinstated as CBI boss by the Supreme Court barely 48 hours ago, was shunted out this evening by a high-powered committee led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Over the last 24 hours, Mr Verma had cancelled the transfers of 10 officers and transferred five others.
While scrapping the government’s October order sending Mr Verma on compulsory leave, the top court had ruled that he would not take any policy decision till a committee comprising the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice of India and the leader of the largest opposition party, took a call on his status.
The three-member committee, which includes Justice AK Sikri, besides PM Modi and Congress’s Mallikarjun Kharge – was expected to decide whether the official, whose term ends on January 31, will continue in the post with full powers. They were also expected to pick his successor.
Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi had dropped out of the high-powered selection panel because he was in the Supreme Court bench that reinstated him as CBI director. The Chief Justice has nominated Justice AK Sikri for the meeting of the panel.
After a meeting of the committee at PM Modi’s home this evening, a decision was taken to remove him from the post. Sources said Congress’s Mallikarjun Kharge had opposed the idea.
Alleging that the panel’s decision was motivated by the possibility of an investigation into the Rafale fighter jet deal, lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan said, “How can you act against Alok Verma without even hearing his side”.
Mr Verma had approached the Supreme Court after the government sent him and his deputy Rakesh Asthana on leave and appointed an interim chief in a midnight swoop on October 23. Mr Verma’s office was sealed and members of his team were transferred overnight by Nageswar Rao, who took charge as interim chief around 2 am that night.
The Supreme Court’s rejection of that move is a major embarrassment to the government, which has been under opposition attack over allegations of manipulating the CBI and using it as a tool against political rivals.