In Supreme Court order on CBI chief Alok Verma’s case, both govt, Opposition see victory
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In Supreme Court order on CBI chief Alok Verma’s case, both govt, Opposition see victory

Congress said the Supreme Court ruling guards CBI’s autonomy, Centre called the order ‘extremely positive’.

india Updated: Oct 27, 2018 00:09 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Alok Verma,Supreme Court on ALok Verma,Rahul Gandhi
CBI chief Alok Verma arrives at Supreme Court in New Delhi in July 2018.(PTI File Photo)

The Union government and the Opposition Congress welcomed the Supreme Court order on Friday in connection with the controversy in the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), with both seeing a vindication for their side.

Officials and ministers in the Union government describing the directions by the court — the court ordered an investigation against CBI director Alok Verma to be wrapped up in two weeks, but retrained the interim chief from taking any policy decisions -- as a positive development that will enable a fair inquiry into an “extraordinary” situation.

The controversy stems from a feud between director Verma and special director Rakesh Asthana, the agency’s two top officers who have accused each other of corruption. Earlier this week, the government ordered for both to be sent on leave after Verma began taking action against Asthana and his aides, a decision called illegal by the opposition and challenged by the director in the top court.

The Congress said the Supreme Court directive had stopped a “sinister attempt by the government to capture CBI through lackeys”. “Truth prevails in Supreme Court... A slap in face of tyrants who wanted to pin the last nail in CBI’s independence. CVC can’t act as Modi government’s pawn but would be supervised by a SC judge to act fairly,” chief spokesperson of the Congress, Randeep Surjewala, tweeted.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Friday led a protest outside the CBI headquarter in New Delhi, demanding Verma’s reinstatement. Workers of the party held similar demonstrations in other parts of the country, where they found support in some other opposition parties such as the Trinamool Congress and Communist Party of India (CPI).

According to officials in the Union government, who asked not to be named, the Supreme Court did not quash the orders of the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) or the central government. “Supervision of a retired judge over the CVC is without any aspersion on the CVC. It has been done keeping in mind the extraordinary circumstances in this case,” this official said.

The Union government, the official added, wanted to create a conducive atmosphere to enable a fair probe into both officers’ allegations – a situation now allowed by the Supreme Court.

Union finance minister Arun Jaitley called Friday’s order “extremely positive”. Recent developments had eroded the credibility of the CBI and the “CVC, in the interest of fairness, had passed an order that till investigation or inquiry is pending against the two top officers of the CBI, they must step aside and recuse themselves,” he said.

During his protest, Gandhi courted arrest while reiterating his allegation that the Verma’s sidelining was initiated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to prevent a probe into the Rafale deal.

While Gandhi, senior leaders and hundreds of supporters marched from Dayal Singh College at Lodhi Road to the nearby CBI headquarters in Delhi at around 12.15 pm, Congress workers hit the streets across the country in protest against the move, demanding Verma’s immediate reinstatement.

“Every institution in India is being ruined by the Prime Minister because he wants to hide the corruption in the Rafale deal. Chowkidar (watchman) has turned into a thief,” the Congress chief said, addressing party workers outside the CBI headquarters before courting arrest.

At an event in the national capital later in the evening, former prime minister Manmohan Singh too attacked the Modi government. “Environment in country’s institutions like CBI is being vitiated,” he said at the launch of congress MP Shashi Tharoor’s new book, The Paradoxical Prime Minister.

Delhi chief minister and Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal too welcomed the Supreme Court’s “intervention”. “Welcome intervention by the hon’ble Supreme Court of India in the CBI matter. In the interests of the nation, hope that institutional integrity of CBI will be upheld & powers that be will understand that their illegal acts will not go unchallenged,” he tweeted.

First Published: Oct 26, 2018 23:15 IST