Narendra Modi is the first premier to have “his illegal orders set aside by the Supreme Court”, the Congress said on Tuesday while the CPI(M) asked for the prime minister’s resignation after the apex court reinstated CBI director Alok Kumar Verma. Other parties, including the RJD and the PDP, joined in to say the apex court had dealt a big blow to the government with its order reinstating Verma and setting aside the Centre’s decision divesting him of his powers and sending him on leave.
The apex court, however, restrained him from taking any major policy decision till the Central Vigilance Commission inquiry is over. “Modiji adds another 1st to his list. After being the first PM to be exposed destroying the #CBI before the SC, After having ruined CVC’s credibility (requiring supervision by former SC judge), Mr Modi has now become 1st PM to have his illegal orders set aside by the SC,” tweeted Congress’ chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala.
He asked Modi to remember that governments had come and gone but the integrity of institutions had survived. “Let this be a lesson to you about the strength of our democracy and the Constitution. Let this be a lesson that howsoever despotic u may be, law catches up in the end,” Surjewala said on Twitter.
He also linked the government’s “illegal decision” on the issue with the Rafale fighter jet deal and the situation in the Reserve Bank of India as well as in the Supreme Court.
“Another big question for Modiji. After making CBI Chief suffer the consequences of your illegal decision for 3 months, will you show the courage to return three months of lost tenure? Unless you are afraid of investigation into Rafale Scam!”
Playing on the prime minister’s name, Surjewala dubbed Modi as one who stood for Muzzling of Democratic Institutions (MODI). Accusing Modi of destroying the credibility and competence of the CBI and the CVC, he also asked whether this was his model of “minimum governance, maximum government”.
“1st, you lose 4 economic advisors in a row including 2 RBI Governors, 2nd, 4 SC judges go public on Judge Loya, Then you destroy credibility & competence of the CBI & CVC. This is ur model of minimum governance, maximum govt’,” he tweeted.
His colleague, Mallikarjun Kharge, who is also part of the high powered committee said the order was a lesson for the government. “We’re not against one individual and welcome the SC’s judgement... Today, you’ll use these agencies to pressurise people, tomorrow somebody else will, What will happen to democracy then?” Kharge asked while speaking to reporters outside Parliament.
According to CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, Verma’s reinstatement by the Supreme Court was a “direct indictment” of Modi and his office. “Will he take responsibility for this blatantly illegal act? If he has any moral conscience he should quit. Accountability, anyone or is it just #jumlas?” Yechury asked on Twitter.
Echoing Yechury, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also described the order as an indictment of the government. “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?” the Aam Aadmi Party chief asked on Twitter.
Welcoming the apex court’s decision, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti said it had restored faith in the independence of institutions. “(It) reinstates belief in independent institutions of our democracy that are its pillars,” Mehbooba said in a tweet.
The former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister said the Centre should now stop “misusing” investigating agencies like the CBI and the National Investigation Agency (NIA) for political ends. “Time for the Central gov to stop misusing its influence to arm-twist investigative agencies like (the) NIA & CBI for political vendetta,” she added.
Speaking to reporters outside Parliament, Rashtriya Janata Dal MP Manoj Jha described the order as a “big slap” on the face of the government. Supreme Court advocate Prashant Bhushan said the Supreme Court order was a partial victory for Verma. “He has been restored but strangely he has been restrained from taking any policy decisions,” he said.
Delivering its order, the apex court said any further decision against Verma would be taken by the high-powered committee which selects and appoints the CBI director. The judgement was pronounced by a bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph. Verma’s two-year tenure as CBI director ends on January 31.