In a set back to the Narendra Modi government, the Supreme Court on Tuesday reinstated Alok Verma as Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Director and set aside Centre's decision divesting him of his powers and sending him on leave. The court, however, said that Verma won’t be allowed to take any major policy decisions until the Central Vigilance Commission inquiry is completed. The top court also made it clear that any decision against Verma will be taken by the Statutory committee which selects and appoints CBI Director. The high-powered committee comprises Chief Justice, Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.
In an unexpected overnight decision on October 23, the Modi government had divested Verma of his powers as CBI Director and sent him on forced leave on recommendations of the Central Vigilance Commission. Verma, whose two-year tenure as CBI director will end on January 31, termed the government order illegal and challenged it in the Supreme Court.
The central government had defended the move in the top court saying that the decision was taken to protect the credibility of the agency as Alok Verma and his deputy - Special Director Rakesh Asthana were fighting like "cats". The rift between Verma and Asthana came out in open with both accusing each other of taking bribery from a Hyderabad-based businessman.
However, the court had come down heavily on the Centre and asked that even if the situation was as bad as it became necessary to intervene, what was the harm in consulting with the high-powered committee that appoints the CBI Director.
With Supreme Court's reinstating Verma, he would now be able to do routine work as the CBI chief including registration of FIRs. When Verma was sent on leave, the Opposition had claimed that he was considering an investigation into the alleged irregularities in the Rafale fighter aircraft deal.
Reacting to the Supreme Court verdict to set aside Centre's decision, Congress president Rahul Gandhi said, "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."
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said that the judgment was a direct indictment of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and asked whether the midnight move was to stall the probe in Rafale scam.
"SC reinstating CBI director Alok Verma is a direct indictment of the PM. 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?" Kejriwal tweeted.