The last 48 hours must have been a roller coaster ride of emotions for CBI Chief Alok Verma, who was removed from his position yesterday. From being sent on forced leave by PMO to being reinstated by Supreme Court to finally being transferred by a PM-led panel set up by Supreme Court, a lot has happened over a span of short time. He might be one of the first CBI Chiefs who has unceremoniously removed from the position.
Cracks appear in CBI
The 1979-batch IPS officer was made the CBI Chief by the present Modi government in January 2017. His retirement from the post was due on January 31 this year, after the completion of two years tenure. However, after his eviction yesterday, he was given charge of the Director-General Fire Services, Civil Defence and Home Guard, which he declined.
The internal trouble in CBI began with the appointment of Rakesh Asthana as CBI’s Special Director – the number two position. It may be noted that Asthana was accused of accepting a bribe. it has been alleged that Rakesh Asthana accepted about Rs 2 crore worth of bribe from a certain Dubai-based businessman. In October 2018, CBI wrote to the Central Vigilance Commission(CVC). The letter states that the CBI Special Director Rakesh Asthana, who is also the second senior most officer, cannot represent CBI Chief Alok Verma in matters pertaining to induction of officers into CBI since “Asthana was himself under the scanner”. This was the first time when feud within the organisation played in full public view.
Being sent on forced leave
Then on October 22, in an unprecedented event, CBI conducted a search in its own headquarters and arrested the Deputy Superintendent of Police. Sensing the gravity of the situation, the PMO summoned Asthana and Verma in an attempt to make amends. After failing to resolve the conflict, top two officials CBI director Alok Verma and special director Rakesh Asthana were summoned by the PMO, the two were then sent on “compulsory wait”. Verma approached the Supreme Court challenging this decision.
Reinstatement and subsequent transfer
On January 8, the exiled CBI Chief Alok Verma was reinstated to the post by the Supreme Court. Notably, reinstating Verma to the post came with its own set of conditions. The SC had directed the government to form a committee, consisting of the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice or his nominee and the leader of the Opposition to see if any action is required to be taken against Verma. Until then, CBI Chief was not permitted to take any major policy decision.
On January 10, just within 48 hours of the reinstation of Alok Verma to the post of CBI Chief, he was removed by the PM-led panel with a 2:1 majority. Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi dropped out of the panel and nominated Justice Sikri for the panel. The PM and Justice Sikri voted in favour of removal of Verma, while the leader of the opposition Mallikarjun Kharge put a dissent note claiming that there is “conspiracy at the highest levels of the Government with statutory authorities being found complicit”. Verma was then posted as the Director-General Fire Services, Civil Defence and Home Guards, under the Union Ministry. He later declined to take over the new posted handed over to him saying, “The selection committee has not provided the undersigned an opportunity to explain the details as recorded by the CVC before arriving at the decision”, as reported by Firstpost.
Allegations against Verma
As reported by Hindustan Times, CBI director Alok Verma and his number two Rakesh Asthana have been involved in a fight since 2017. Verma had been accused by Asthana on grounds of being intrusive in ongoing corruption cases that are being handled by Asthana. Verma has allegedly interfered with the case against Lalu Prasad. Asthana has filed a formal complaint to the Cabinet secretary following which the Central Vigilance Commission was asked to check the matter in September.
Also, just a few days before the case was filed against Asthana, he had alleged that Verma accepted a bribe from Sana to suppress the case.
Verma had his own allegations against Asthana, saying that the statements by Asthana against him were just tactics to distract the ongoing investigation of bribery cases against Asthana who was being investigated in six cases including acceptance of a bribe from Sterling Biotech group(Rs 5000 crore scam) and Upendra Rai who is in prison for fixing.
Also Read: “False, Unsubstantiated & Frivolous Allegations”: Alok Verma On His Ouster As CBI Chief