No corruption allegations on ousted CBI chief: Patnaik
“There was no allegation against Alok Verma. Sana Satish Babu never said he paid money to Verma,” justice Patnaik said over the phone.Updated: Jan 12, 2019 23:15 IST
The former Supreme Court judge who supervised the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) inquiry against ousted Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) director Alok Verma said on Saturday that no “allegations of corruption” were made against Verma by a witness, as had been claimed by his deputy Rakesh Asthana in connection with a case against controversial meat exporter Moin Qureshi.
“There was no allegation against Verma. Sana Satish Babu never said he paid money to Verma,” justice Patnaik said over the phone.
One of the main lines of investigation of the CVC was Asthana’s allegation that Verma accepted Rs 2 crore from Babu, a Hyderabad-based businessman, to ensure he wasn’t indicted in the case against Qureshi.
Asthana levelled the allegations in a letter written to the cabinet secretary on August 24.
On October 15, the Central Bureau of Investigation registered a first information report in which it said a Rs 5 crore deal had been struck with two middlemen on Asthana’s behalf to protect Babu from CBI action in a case in which he was being investigated along with Qureshi.
Justice Patnaik asserted that the findings of the vigilance commission enquiry report were not his, as Verma mentioned in a letter on Friday in which he said he would not take up his new posting as director general, fire services, civil defence and home guards.
“I simply supervised the enquiry,” Patnaik said.
The former top court judge felt that the selection panel headed by the Prime Minister, which selects the CBI chief, took a hasty decision to remove Verma from the investigating agency without hearing Verma. While supervising the enquiry, justice Patnaik said, he ensured that the principles of natural justice were applied.
Verma didn’t reply to phone call and a message seeking comment. C Chandramouli, secretary in the ministry of personnel, the administrative ministry of CBI, too didn’t reply to a phone call and a message.
The internecine fight between Verma and his deputy, who traded allegations of corruption, roiled the agency. On the intervening night of October 23 and 24, the government divested both of their powers and sent them on forced leave. M. Nageswara Rao was appointed interim director and transferred several officials, including some overseeing the investigation against Asthana.
Verma challenged his removal in the Supreme Court, which on Tuesday ordered his conditional reinstatement and also asked that the selection committeemeet within a week to review the CVC report on him and decide on his continuation at the CBI.
On Thursday, the committee, comprising Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Chief Justice of India’s representative justice AK Sikri, and the leader of the single largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, met, and in a 2:1 decision (Kharge dissented) transferred the CBI director out of the agency.
The comments by Patnaik came amid moves by a few CBI offers to move the Supreme Court, challenging Rao’s orders, scrapping Verma’s orders, which, in turn, had rescinded Rao’s original orders.
“How can their transfers be declared as “non est” (not in existence). All the interim director can do is to cancel their transfers but can declare them as non est?” said an official aware of the move by the CBI officers.
Justice Patnaik’s observations can be crucial, if Verma decides to challenge his ouster again before the top court, legal experts said. However, the former judge’s statement does not require a suo motu (on its own) cognizance by the Supreme Court, they added.
Senior advocate K Vishwanathan said: “If Verma challenges his ouster then the statement would be a relevant factor. Without the challenge the top court cannot go into it since the top panel’s decision gives rise to a new cause of action for Verma.”
Another senior advocate, Ajit Kumar Sinha, said Patnaik’s remarks were his personal comments. “Once he has carried out the task empowered to him and given a report then his statement cannot be a basis for the Supreme Court to take cognizance.”
Separately, a senior government official familiar with the development said KV Chowdary, the central vigilance commissioner, had indeed met CBI director Alok Verma in the first week of October, as mentioned in a media report.
“The meeting took place at the official residence of Verma. It was seen as an effort of patch-up between Verma and Asthana,” said the official, who added that he had no idea what transpired in the meeting. The official requested anonymity.
First Published: Jan 12, 2019 23:15 IST