Back in charge of CBI, Alok Verma scraps transfer orders of interim director
Alok Verma and his deputy Rakesh Asthana had been engaged in an internecine battle that roiled the agency and almost split it down the middle, forcing the government to act.Updated: Jan 09, 2019 23:37 IST
Reinstated Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) director Alok Verma wasted no time on his first day back at work on Wednesday after a forced 77-day leave of absence, and promptly scrapped all but one of the transfer orders issued by interim director M Nageswara Rao.
The high-powered selection committee headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi met on Wednesday to decide on Verma’s fate, but could not arrive at a decision, and will meet again on Thursday.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court conditionally reinstated Verma, but said the selection committee should meet within a week to go into the charges against him.
Verma’s scrapping of the transfer orders could be interpreted as a reopening of the hostilities that forced the government to, on the intervening night of October 23 and 24, divest him of his powers and send him on leave.
Verma and his deputy Rakesh Asthana had been engaged in an internecine battle that roiled the agency and almost split it down the middle, forcing the government to act.
The scrapping of the orders, many of which were issued on October 23, and some earlier this month, means that the team of officials probing CBI special director Asthana, who too was divested of his powers on the intervening night of October 23 and 24, is back to carry on with their probe.
During the selection committee meeting, senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge, who attended the meeting as the leader of the largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha, asked for an explanation of the events that led to the sudden divestment of Verma’s powers. He also asked the committee to compensate Verma, who lost 77 days of his service (he is due to retire on January 31) .
Kharge told reporters after the meeting that he also “ asked for a copy of the Central Vigilance Committee report that looked into the allegations against Verma and suggested that the CBI director be given a chance to defend himself before the committee.” Kharge added that he advised the committee not to arrive at any decision in haste.
The high-level Select Committee comprises the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice of India and leader of the largest opposition party. Apart from Mallikarjun Kharge, Justice AK Sikri, nominated by the chief justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, attended the meeting at the prime minister’s residence on Lok Kalyan Marg.
While reinstating Verma, the Supreme Court prevented him from taking major policy decisions until the selection committee looked into the charges against him, emanating from a letter witten by Asthana to the Cabinet secretary in August.
Transfers are not considered policy decisions but administrative ones.
Prominent among those reinstated by Verma are the Gujarat cadre 1987 batch Indian Police Service official AK Sharma who was handling the key charges of the policy division, which handles the communication interception mechanism of the agency, and the anti-corruption (headquarters) unit which handles big ticket corruption cases. Sharma was shunted to the almost defunct charge of joint director (multi-disciplinary monitoring authority) which is looking into the conspiracy behind former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination.
HT reported on Wednesday that Verma may roll back all the transfer orders effected by Rao.
Earlier in the day, at least three officials – deputy inspector general (DIG) MK Sinha and deputy superintendents of police (DySPs) Ashwini Gupta and AK Bassi – who were among 13 officials transferred by Nageswara Rao made formal representations to Verma seeking cancellation of their transfer order, said an official familiar with the development.
DIG Sinha was transferred to Nagpur from Delhi and DySP Bassi to Port Blair. DySP Gupta was sent back to his parent cadre, the Intelligence Bureau. All three were involved in the probe against Asthana.
All three of them moved the Supreme Court and filed an intervention applications when Verma challenged the government’s decision to send him on forced leave.
Another official, additional SP SS Gurm, who didn’t move the SC against the transfer order, was part of the Asthana probe team and was transferred to Jabalpur. He too has been brought back.
When Verma reached the CBI headquarter in the morning, he was received by interim director Rao at the entrance to the building.
Verma didn’t say anything to reporters waiting outside for his arrival.
“He quietly resumed charge and had meetings with various key officials. He didn’t call any group meeting. senior officials kept coming and meeting him throughout the day. He also cleared few files,” said another agency official.
First Published: Jan 09, 2019 23:33 IST