In a judgment which is seen as a major setback to the Narendra Modi government, the Supreme Court on Tuesday overturned its decision to divest Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Director Alok Verma of his powers and send him on forced leave. The top court reinstated Verma as the CBI chief. In a sudden overnight move, the Modi government last year sent Verma on forced leave and scrapped his powers as the CBI director. While Verma termed the government's order illegal and challenged it in the Supreme Court, the Modi government told the court that the decision was taken on the recommendation of the Central Vigilance Commission to save the agency's image as Verma and his deputy – special director Rakesh Asthana – were fighting like "cats".
Congress president Rahul Gandhi had alleged that the decision to "sack" Verma was taken out of fear as he was willing to investigate the alleged irregularities in the Rafale fighter aircraft deal. The CBI had then rebutted the Congress chief's claims, saying "This is being manufactured by vested interests. Every file in the CBI at each level is accounted for."
However, the CBI chief remained tight-lipped and didn't speak anything about his claimed intentions of probing the Rafale deal. But him not denying the reports and the Centre defending Verma's 'virtual sacking' in the Supreme Court furthered the speculations that he might actually be considering a probe. Reacting to Verma's reinstatement as CBI chief, Rahul Gandhi said that Verma was removed at 1 am in the night because he was about to begin an investigation in the Rafale scam and dropped some hint that we may soon see something big on the controversial deal.
"CBI chief was removed at 1 AM in the night because he was about to begin an investigation in the Rafale scam. Now that he has been reinstated, some justice has been done. Now let's see what happens," ANI quoted the Congress leader as saying.
Although the Supreme Court refrained Verma from taking any major policy-related decisions, he will be able to do routine work as the CBI chief, including registration of FIRs. Verma's term as the CBI chief will end on January 31 and it is highly unlikely his term will be extended. With just three more weeks left, it would be interesting to see if Verma orders a probe into the Rafale deal or the claims of Opposition leaders were just full of hot air.