Sacked CBI chief Alok Verma refuses to join new post, says process turned ‘upside down’
Alok Verma quit on Friday without spending even a day at work as director general of fire services, civil defence and home guards, using his resignation letter addressed to C Chandramouli, secretary in the ministry of personnel, to complain bitterly that he had been denied “natural justice” by a high-level panel that removed him from the helm of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) one day ago based on a report by the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) .
It was an unceremonious exit for the Indian Police Service (IPS) officer, who was stripped of his powers as CBI director and sent on forced leave by the government on the intervening night of October 23-24, reinstated conditionally by the Supreme Court on January 9 and two days later ousted from the agency and reassigned to the new job by the three-member selection committee, headed by the Prime Minister, which chooses the CBI chief.
“The Selection Committee has not provided the undersigned an opportunity to explain the details as recorded by the CVC before arriving at the decision,” Verma wrote in his resignation letter. “Natural Justice was scuttled and the entire process was turned upside down in ensuring that the undersigned is removed from the post of Director, CBI.”
Verma, 61, was to retire on January 31, 2019 from his fixed-tenure, two-year stint as CBI chief although he would have retired on July 31, 2017 in the normal course. He noted in his letter that he was no longer CBI director and had already crossed the superannuation age for the role to which he had been shifted. “Accordingly, the undersigned may be deemed as superannuated with effect from today,” Verma concluded.
A senior official of the ministry of personnel said Verma’s resignation is under consideration but may not be accepted immediately.
Verma and his deputy, CBI special director Rakesh Asthana, were both divested of their powers and sent on leave by the government on the advice of the CVC after an internecine feud between the two men played out in public, roiling the agency. The CBI under Verma registered a first information report against Asthana in October and the latter wrote to the cabinet secretary in August, each accusing the other of corruption.
The CBI chief challenged his removal in the Supreme Court, which on Tuesday ordered his reinstatement on condition that he not take any policy decisions, and asked the three-member selection committee, comprising the PM, the Chief Justice of India (CJI) or his nominee and the leader of the single largest party in the Lok Sabha, the Congress’s Mallikarjun Kharge, to decide on Verma’s continuation within a week after considering the CVC’s probe report against him.
PM Narendra Modi and CJI’s nominee justice AK Sikri opted on Thursday night to remove Verma, a decision opposed by Kharge, and appointed M Nageswara Rao as interim director for a second time until a replacement for Verma is found.
Verma wrote in his resignation letter that the committee had not considered the fact that the CVC report, on which the panel based its decision, was premised on charges “alluded by a complaint who is presently under investigation by the CBI.” He said the complainant — a reference to CBI special director Rakesh Asthana — never appeared before retired justice Arun Patnaik, who supervised the enquiry against him (Verma).
“Also, justice Patnaik has concluded that the findings/conclusions of the report are not his ,” wrote Verma.
Watch: Sacked CBI chief Alok Verma resigns, refuses transfer as fire service chief
He added: “Institutions are one of the strongest and most visible symbols of our democracy and it is no exaggeration to say that the CBI is one of the most important organisations in India today. The decisions made yesterday will not just be a reflection on my functioning but will become a testimony on how the CBI as an institution will be treated by any government through the CVC, who is appointed by majority members of the ruling government. This is a moment for collective introspection, to say the least.”
Principal opposition party Congress agreed with Alok Verma that the PM-led panel should have heard him before taking a decision.
“The principle of Natural Justice demands that the High Powered Committee should have given a hearing to the reinstated CBI Director, Shri Alok Verma, provide him a hearing and then take a decision. Instead, the Committee removed Shri Alok Verma from the post of CBI Director without even listening to his side of the story. This was done, even as Leader of Opposition, Shri Mallikarjuna Kharge pleaded for the same,” said party spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi.
Singhvi added that the CVC is neither the appointing authority nor the removing authority for the CBI director. “Hence, CVC report is not gospel truth to form the entire and sole basis for the Committee to remove Shri Verma. The Committee should see the nature of the superficial and subjective charges in the CVC Report,” said Singhvi.
BJP spokesman GVL Narasimha Rao criticised the opposition for its stand. “Rahul Gandhi is crying more than Alok Verma in CBI matter. The real investigation that is going on in the CBI is AgustaWestland and other defence deals. They (Congress) are worried that the CBI is getting at the truth and that’s the reason Congress wanted to intervene in CBI debate.”
As Verma gave up his new post, interim director Nageswara Rao cancelled all the number transfer orders the former issued at the CBI in the two days between his court-ordered reinstatement and ouster.
The fresh order declared all the orders issued by Verma as “non est” and added: “…..Consequently all actions in pursuance thereof by all concerned are also hereby declared as null and void. In other words, status-quo ante as on January 8, 2019 stands restored.
Verma’s orders first resulted in changing the complexion of team of officials probing Rakesh Asthana but on January 10 CBI clarified that two supervisory officials – joint director V Murugesan and deputy inspector general Tarun Gauba — will continue to monitor the probe in the Asthana case which was registered on October 15 and the Delhi high court on Friday refused to quash it.
Rao took charge of the agency at 9pm Thursday, a CBI spokesperson said in a statement.