Alok Verma is still director, says CBI ahead of Supreme Court hearing
The Centre had on Wednesday divested all responsibilities of Alok Verma and his deputy Rakesh Asthana amid an internal Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) feud. Asthana, who is being investigated on alleged corruption, was removed from all cases by Verma on Tuesday
Amid the ongoing crisis at the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the probe agency on Thursday said Alok Verma continues to remain the director of the CBI, while Rakesh Asthana will continue as special director. M Nageshwar Rao, who was handed over interim charge of the probe agency, will look after the duties and functions of the CBI director till the time Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) looks into the allegations and counter allegations between the top two officials of the agency, the spokesperson said, clarifying that Verma and Asthana have not been removed from their post.
The Centre had on Wednesday divested all responsibilities of Alok Verma and his deputy Rakesh Asthana amid an internal Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) feud. Asthana, who is being investigated on alleged corruption, was removed from all cases by Verma on Tuesday.
Verma has challenged the government order within hours of being stripped of his powers as the agency’s boss. His petition would be heard on Friday.
The Supreme Court on Thursday said that it would consider according urgent hearing to a PIL seeking court-monitored special investigation team (SIT) probe into allegations of corruption against various CBI officials, including Asthana, who was divested of his responsibilities as the agency’s special director.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi considered the submission of lawyer Prashant Bhushan, appearing for NGO Common Cause that there were wider issues of corruption affecting the probe agency and the PIL needed to be heard urgently. The bench, which also comprised justices SK Kaul and KM Joseph, asked Bhushan to provide details and said it would consider granting urgent hearing. The SC will on Friday hear a separate plea by Verma challenging the Centre’s order to send him on leave.
Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge, a member of the selection committee to appoint the CBI director, in a strongly-worded letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said neither the PM nor the CVC has the authority to interfere with the terms of service of the CBI director. “The move should have had the approval of the selection committee,” he said.
The CBI chief is selected by a collegium chaired by the Prime Minister, with the Leader of Opposition or the largest party in opposition in the Lok Sabha and the Chief Justice of India being the other members.
“The only plausible explanation is an attempt to scuttle the ongoing investigations into the special director’s cases and other cases that might cause embarrassment to your government,” Kharge said in the letter.