The Leaflet

| @theleaflet_in | October 26,2018

A three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi, Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, and K M Joseph has agreed to examine the legality of the order passed by the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) on October 23, 2018, whereby Alok Kumar Verma had been divested of his powers, function and duties as CBI Director in respect of cases already registered and /or required to be registered and/or being inquired/enquired /investigation under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. The Supreme Court will also examine the legality of the order issued by the Appointment Committee of the Cabinet appointing M Nageswara Rao as the interim director of the CBI.

As an interim measure, the Court has issued following directions:

  • Preliminary inquiry against Alok Kumar Verma to be completed within two weeks under the supervision of retired Supreme Court Justice A K Patnaik.
  • Interim director M.Nageswara Rao is restraint from taking any policy decision. He will only look after routine affairs of the CBI.
  • Decisions taken by M.Nageswara Rao in his capacity as interim director CBI post October 23, 2018 that include mass transfer of Investigation Officers (IO) shall be placed before the Court in a sealed envelope.
  • Matter to be listed on November 12, 2018 for further consideration.

When the matter was called for hearing today, senior advocate Fali Nariman on behalf Alok Verma submitted that the dictum of the Apex Court in Vineet Narain case which was regarding insulating the CBI from the government’s influence, that later transformed into a statute in the form of Central Vigilance Commission Act, 2003 and various amendments in Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946. Nariman then took the judges through the previsions of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946 whereunder CBI director is appointed.

However, CJI Gogoi cut short Fali Nariman and told him that he has had suggestion in the matter. He said as an interim measure, probe against Alok Verma would be completed within 10 days under the supervision of either a sitting or a retired judge of the Supreme Court. At this, Attorney General who was representing the Central government expressed his hesitation in accepting a “very short time” — of 10 days —  to conclude the probe. CJI retorted saying “you need to go through the voluminous papers/documents, only conduct a preliminary inquiry, that’s all”. CJI further remarked “this matter cannot be prolonged in the interest of the country”.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appearing for the CVC also sought more time to conclude the probe. He even cited Diwali vacations to borrow more time from the Court. But his excuses did not find favour from the Court. Further, he submitted that under section 14 of the CVC Act Commission is required to present annually to the President a report as to the work done by the Commission within six months of the close of the year under the report, which in turn is placed before Parliament. Hence, instead of allowing somebody to supervise the probe, the CVC should be allowed to examine the matter itself.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohtagai attempted to make submission on behalf of CBI Special Director Rakesh Ashtana, who too has been “sent on leave” by the Government. He said his client Asthana too had filed a petition, but CJI Gogoi said his petition was not before court today, and refused to hear Rohtagi anymore. CJI Gogoi also told Rohatgi: “You have missed the bus.”

The Court has also issued notice on a PIL filed by NGO Common Cause. Senior advocate Dushyant Dave appeared for the NGO. This PIL additionally seeks removal of Rakesh Asthana and a SIT probe against CBI officials against whom there are allegations of corruption.

Now the matter will be heard on November 12, 2018.

Read the Supreme Court order.

Also read: By divesting Alok Verma of his post as CBI director, Modi government has mocked the law; ‘fixed tenure’ means functional tenure

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