Fifty four hours after the Supreme Court reinstated Alok Verma as CBI director, and left the matter to be decided by the Selection Committee headed by the Prime Minister, the CBI chief was removed from the agency again by the high-level committee on Thursday. The committee comprised PM Narendra Modi, SC judge A. K. Sikri representing the Chief Justice of India and the leader of Congress party in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge. Kharge gave a dissenting note and sought extension for the CBI chief.
The selection committee, according to official sources, felt that a detailed investigation, including criminal investigation, was necessary in some cases". Under such circumstances, the continuance of Alok Verma as CBI chief was untenable.
In the last two-three months, the premier investigating agency has been witnessing the strange spectacle of the CBI Chief and the Additional Director Rakesh Asthana levelling charges of taking bribes against each other. Both had gone to the extent of recording statements of middlemen and filing cases against each other. The allegations were widely discussed in newspapers, television and social media, and the image of CBI built over the last several decades had been sullied.
There was no option left before the government but to remove both Verma and Asthana from their posts. The Central Vigilance Commissioner went through the allegations and gave its report to the government. The matter went to the Supreme Court. Soon after being reinstated by the Supreme Court on Wednesday, Verma took over and carried out large-scale transfers, bringing his own men to key posts. Clearly, the CBI was facing another round of charges and counter-charges, and the government had to wield the stick again.
The other important point was that Alok Verma appeared to have become a convenient tool in the hands of those opposed to PM Modi. Congress president Rahul Gandhi had given statements in his favour, and Modi baiters, Arun Shourie and Prashant Bhushan had defended his case in the Supreme Court. These were the individuals who were, in the same breath, demanding autonomy and independence for CBI. The question is: how can CBI get autonomy and independence, when its two top officers level charges against each other in an atmosphere surcharged by politics?
It needs to be mentioned here that Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge had filed a petition in favour of Alok Verma in the Supreme Court. Hence he was actually an interested party in the Selection Committee. Contrast this with the Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, who had heard petitions in the Alok Verma case, and therefore preferred not to go himself, but sent Justice Sikri to the Selection Committee meeting.
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