After the Supreme Court today scrapped a controversial government order and reinstated CBI chief Alok Verma, senior minister Arun Jaitley said the court had “reinterpreted” the government’s stance.
Mr Jaitley said the government’s action to send Alok Verma and his deputy Rakesh Asthana on compulsory leave in October was “bonafide” and based on the recommendation of the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC).
“This action taken was perfectly bonafide as there were cross-allegations made by both the officers, and in accordance with recommendations of the CVC. The government felt that in the larger interest of fair and impartial investigation and credibility of CBI, the two officers must recuse themselves,” Mr Jaitley told reporters outside parliament.
“The court apparently has strengthened the immunity given to the CBI director in the larger interest of the fair and impartial working of the CBI. At the same time, the court has devised an accountability mechanism. The directions of the court will obviously be complied with,” he said.
The top court reinstated Mr Verma but said he cannot take any major policy decisions for now. The three judges have said that any further decision on Mr Verma, who retires on January 31, will be taken by a high-powered selection committee comprising the Prime Minister, the Leader of Opposition and the Chief Justice of India, which must give its decision within a week.
Mr Verma had challenged the government’s October 23 order sending him on forced leave and appointing an interim chief, arguing that the CBI chief has a fixed two-year term and can be removed only by the high-powered committee.
Opposition parties say the court ruling is an indictment of the government.
“We welcome the Supreme Court’s verdict lambasting the government against their illegal removal of Alok Verma as CBI Director,” said the Congress, which alleges that Mr Verma was removed because he intended to launch a probe into the Rafale jet deal.
Arvind Kejriwal tweeted: “SC reinstating CBI director Alok Verma is a direct indictment of the PM. Modi govt has ruined all institutions and democracy in our country. Wasn’t CBI director illegally removed at midnight to stall the probe in Rafale scam which directly leads to PM himself?”
Mr Verma and Rakesh Asthana, the CBI’s top two officers, were both sent on leave in October in the middle of a bitter feud between them. Around 2 am on October 24, Nageswar Rao took charge and signed off on the transfer of half-a-dozen officers on Mr Verma’s team.