After a gap of 77 days, Alok Verma resumed his work as Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) director on Wednesday. In a jolt to the government, the Supreme Court on Tuesday reinstated Verma as director of the agency. It quashed Centre’s unprecedented "overnight" order in which he was stripped of his power and sent on leave along with his deputy after they traded corruption charges sparking a bitter feud.
The court, however, clipped Verma's wings saying he cannot take any major policy decision till the high-powered committee, which selects the CBI chief, decides on his continuation since the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) is probing charges of corruption against him. Verma's two-year tenure as CBI director ends on January 31.
Asking the committee to meet within a week, the court said it was "still open" for the panel to consider the matter involving Verma. The committee comprises the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice of India and the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha.
Holding that the statute does not have any provision with regard to interim suspension or removal of the CBI director, the court made it clear that any such decision has to be taken after obtaining the consent of the selection committee.
There was no immediate reaction from Verma nor any official word when he will resume charge.
The central issue before the court was whether the CVC and the Centre had the authority to divest Verma of his powers as CBI chief in the wake of his feud with Special Director Rakesh Asthana. Both Verma and Asthana levelled charges of corruption against each other.
Like Verma, Asthana was also divested of his powers and sent on leave by the government on the same night of October 23.
Asthana has not challenged the order but moved the Delhi High Court for quashing of the FIR against him in a corruption case.
The Congress and other opposition parties hailed the verdict and said it was a "slap" on the Modi government which had transferred him "illegally".
Congress president Rahul Gandhi said, "some justice" has been done and now Prime Minister Narendra Modi cannot run away from an investigation into the Rafale deal and that "no one can save the prime minister".
Delivering a 44-page verdict in what is known as the 'CBI vs CBI case', a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi set aside the October 23, 2018 orders of the CVC and the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) divesting Verma of his powers and asking CBI's Joint Director M Nageshwar Rao to look after the duties and functions of the agency's Director.
(With inputs from agencies)