CBI Director Sent On A Leave In A Dramatic Midnight Move By Modi Govt
The controversy around India’s topmost investigation agency has refused to die down. After the warring top two officials, CBI director Alok Verma and special director Rakesh Asthana were summoned by the PMO on Monday evening, the two have now been sent on “compulsory wait”.
Warring officials sent on leave
This decision of sending the two officials on leave came at the midnight with Joint Director of CBI, M Nageshwar Rao being given the temporary in-charge. The decision came after the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) passed an order seeking their removal. Both have been stripped of all their responsibilities for now. There also have been reports of Alok Verma’s offices being sealed and searched at, however, CBI later issued a clarification saying that no office has been sealed.
Apart from Asthana and Verma, many other officials too have been either sent on leave or have been transferred. Among them are DY SP CBI AK Bassi, Additional SP CBI SS Gum. These officials were part of the investigation team probing the case against Asthana. It may be noted that Asthana rise in the rank of power in CBI is often linked with his closeness with the Modi government.
CBI DIG MAnish Kumar Sinha, DIG Taurn Gauba, DIG Jasbir Singh, DIG Anish Prasad, DIG KR Chaurasia, HoB Ram Gopal and SP Satish Dagar have been transferred. They were probing the case against CBI's Rakesh Asthana. pic.twitter.com/jOEkOMld9m
— ANI (@ANI) October 24, 2018
Both Asthana and Verma have been accused of accepting a bribe. First Asthana was booked for obtaining a bribe of about Rs 2 crore in the Moin Qureshi case in exchange for suppressing the case. Around the same time, Asthana had complained to the Central Vigilance Commission accusing Verma of taking a bribe. In an unprecedented move, CBI had then conducted search at its own headquarters and arrested one of their investigation officers on the charges of falsifying a witness’s statement to levy incorrect accusations against Verma. It was after this that both Verma and Asthana were summoned by PMO.
Fixed tenure of CBI director?
This decision to send the CBI director on leave is unprecedented. Eminent lawyer Prashant Bhushan, who is also one of the first persons to object the appointment of Asthana as the special director of CBI has said that “PM has no authority to send the CBI director on leave”.
Instead of suspending Rakesh Asthana, it seems that the PM is trying to send the CBI Director Verma on leave! PM has no authority to send CBI director on leave as his tenure is protected. It is not CBI vs CBI. It is CBI versus a corrupt officer planted in the CBI by the PMO. https://t.co/b1PH5h1WgC
— Prashant Bhushan (@pbhushan1) October 23, 2018
As reported by India Today, before 1997, CBI director had no fixed tenure and could be removed from the post by the government. However, this changed after the Vineet Narain judgement, which fixed the tenure to two years. The SC also ruled that CBI director can only be transferred under extraordinary circumstances, which needs selection committee’s approval with the Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC), the Home Secretary and Secretary (Personnel) as members.
An affidavit filed during the Coalgate scam had made it mandatory that the CBI director could only be removed on the grounds of misbehaviour on the orders of the President only after a proper inquiry has been set up.
Notably, Alok Verma’s ouster was not referred to any committee. Verma has now moved Supreme Court challenging centre’s decision to send him on leave. SC will hear the plea on October 26.