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. 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. 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.
Hearing Verma's plea, a Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had reserved its order after hearing arguments on behalf of the CBI chief, the Centre and the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC).
During the argument, the central government had told the Supreme Court that the decision to send Verma on leave was taken after his feud with his deputy, Special CBI Director Rakesh Asthana became public. The Centre argued that it had become necessary to intervene as the “cat fight” between the top two warring CBI officers was denting the agency’s image.
On this, the top 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 selection committee that comprises the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
Both Verma and Asthana had been accusing each other of taking bribery from a Hyderabad-based businessman to clear his name from a case. The rift between Verma and Asthana turned ugly when the former ordered registration of a corruption case against the latter.
Following this, the Centre sent both officers on leave and appointed CBI’s joint director M Nageswara Rao as the premier investigation agency’s interim director. Soon after taking over, Rao ordered the transfer of several CBI officers who were investigating the case against Asthana.