The Supreme Court on Friday issues notices to CBI, CVC and the Centre and sought their response on agency Director Alok Kumar Verma's plea challenging the government's decision to divest him of his duties and send him on leave.
Interim CBI chief M Nageswara Rao will not take any major policy decisions, the apex court ruled. Decisions taken by him since October 23 till date shall not be implemented, it said.
All decisions taken by Rao shall be placed before the apex court in a sealed cover.
The top court said former Supreme Court judge A K Patnaik will oversee a Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) inquiry into the allegations and counter allegations and the report has to be placed before it within two weeks.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi posted the next date of hearing on November 12.
The bench, also comprising Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph, issued notices on the petition filed by an NGO, Common Cause, which has sought a Special Investigation Team (SIT) probe against the CBI officers.
CBI's Special Director Rakesh Asthana has also been named as one of the respondents in the NGO's petition.
Verma and Asthana have made allegations of corruption against each other.
During the brief hearing Friday, senior advocate F S Nariman advanced arguments on behalf of the CBI chief.
He submitted that the CBI director was appointed with the approval of a selection panel having the Prime Minister, the Leader of Opposition and the Chief Justice of India.
Nariman referred to the CVC and Centre's orders divesting Verma of his duty. He also cited the Vineet Narain judgment to support Verma's pleas.
In the beginning, the apex court said the CVC inquiry on allegations and counter-allegations should be completed in 10 days under the supervision of this court.
CVC submitted that 10 days for inquiry was not sufficient as it has to look into several documents. It said for the time being, no monitoring by anyone else should be allowed.
The bench granted the CVC two weeks to conclude its probe.
Verma has also sought a stay of the Centre's order asking him to proceed on leave and giving the interim charge of his post to Rao, a 1986 batch Odisha-cadre IPS officer.
All you need to know about the CBI War:
The feud between Verma and Asthana escalated recently leading to registration of an FIR against Asthana and others including Deputy Superintendent of Police Devender Kumar, who is in the CBI custody in an alleged bribery case.
The FIR was lodged on a written complaint of Satish Babu Sana on October 15. It alleged that Kumar, the IO in a case, was repeatedly calling him to the CBI office to harass and compel him to pay bribe of Rs 5 crore for giving him clean chit.
Asthana and Kumar both challenged the FIR in the Delhi High Court, which on Tuesday ordered CBI to maintain status quo on the criminal proceedings against Asthana.
The Centre, the CVC and the DoPT intervened and decided to send the CBI Director and the Special Director on leave.
The plea said the decision taken "overnight" by the Centre and the CVC to divest him of his role as the head of the probe agency was "patently illegal" and such interference "erodes" the independence and autonomy of the institution.
"Over the recent past, although all functionaries within the CBI from the investigating officer and the superintending officers up to the Joint Director and the Director have agreed on a certain course of action, the Special Director has been of a different view," the plea said.
It alleged that "hurdles posed" by Asthana have now been compounded by his complicity in "concocting evidence" to impugn the reputation of Verma, leading to a separate FIR being registered by CBI which has been challenged by the special director in the Delhi High Court.
The second plea, of NGO Common Cause, has sought court-monitored SIT probe into allegations of corruption against various CBI officials, including Asthana, who was divested of his responsibilities as the agency's special director.
The bench agreed to hear the plea after lawyer Prashant Bhushan, appearing for Common Cause, said that there were wider issues of corruption affecting the probe agency and the PIL needed to be heard urgently.
The NGO has sought relief including court-monitored Special Investigation Team (SIT) probe into allegations of corruption against CBI officials including Asthana, who along with CBI Director Alok Kumar Verma had been divested of powers and sent on leave.