Behind the scenes on night CBI chief Alok Verma was divested of his powers
Central Vigilance Commisioner KV Chowdary and his two colleagues Vigilance Commissioners, Sharad Kumar and TM Bhasin took around five hours to finalise the order relieving CBI chief Alok Verma of his responsibilities, a senior govt official said.Updated: Oct 27, 2018, 08:45 IST
Hours-long deliberations by the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), senior officers waiting for the commission’s order in the Department of Personnel and Training and the Prime Minister’s Office, a joint director of the Central Bureau of Investigation asked to wait for orders, and deep secrecy to ensure the main protagonist didn’t get wind of the happenings and get a midnight stay from the Chief Justice of India – these were some of the ingredients of the high-drama on the intervening night of October 23 and 24 that resulted in the CBI’s director being divested of his powers.
Central Vigilance Commisioner KV Chowdary and his two colleagues – Vigilance Commissioners Sharad Kumar and TM Bhasin – took around five hours to finalise the order relieving CBI chief Alok Verma of his responsibilities, a senior government official said on condition of anonymity. “The CVC and two vigilance commissioners knew that the order would a face a judicial scrutiny and therefore it had to be well reasoned. They had to put details of each and every instance of non-cooperation from the CBI under Verma when it started inquiring into complaint of Asthana,” this person added.
His reference is to a complaint filed by CBI special director Rakesh Asthana with the cabinet secretary alleging corruption and interference by Verma in sensitive cases; this complaint was forwarded to CVC which started its investigations.
Asthana’s letter prompted the CBI to file its own FIR against the special director and brought the internal battle within the federal investigation agency to a head. Asthana too has been removed of all responsibilities.
“Chowdary had to leave for Denmark on Tuesday night for a conference but he had to skip the tour at the last minute due to issuance of the order,” said the official. He and other officials familiar with the matter provided a blow-by-blow account of what actually transpired.
Meanwhile, a message was sent to the secretary, personnel to stay back in office and wait for an order. The CVC and the commissioners finally had the order ready around midnight and they could leave for home only around 1am. The order was immediately sent to North Block, where secretary, personnel C Chandramouli was waiting.
A home ministry official familiar with the midnight operation said that even as Chandramouli waited for the CVC order, the senior most joint director in the CBI, M Nageswara Rao, reached the agency headquarters at 11pm. Soon after, the guards were asked not to allow anyone else inside.
“Nageswara Rao was dispatched to avoid Karnataka-like situation when the Congress approached the CJI for an urgent hearing after the state governor invited BJP’s BS Yeddyurappa to form the government and the CJI ordered a midnight hearing in the matter. It was suspected that if Verma got wind of the government move, he might approach the CJI in the night itself to challenge the government order. That’s why Rao was already stationed in the CBI headquarters awaiting orders for his appointment as acting chief,” said a CBI official familiar with the matter.
Rao remained there for more than two hours. That’s why the CBI spokesperson said in a formal statement that Rao took charge as the interim director “late on Tuesday evening”.
Soon after Chandramouli received the order , he rushed to the PMO and got an approval from the appointments committee of the cabinet to appoint Rao as the interim agency director.
The orders for divesting both Verma and Asthana of their responsibilities as director and special director were delivered by hand to the residences of both the officials at around 2:30am.