Senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge has approached the Supreme Court against the government’s move to send CBI chief Alok Verma on forced leave, calling it “completely illegal and arbitrary”. Mr Kharge wants the top court to set aside the centre’s order divesting Mr Verma of his powers.
Stating that the CBI chief has a fixed tenure of two years, Mr Kharge’s petition says the transfer of an incumbent director should have the approval of the selection committee. Mr Kharge, Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, is part of the committee that selected Mr Verma as the CBI boss. The other two members of the selection committee are the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice.
“The transfer of an incumbent Director, CBI in an extraordinary situation, including the need for him to take up a more important assignment, should have the approval of the Selection Committee…,” the petition says.
“The applicant being a member of the Statutory Committee was not consulted nor was he a part of any meeting or privy to any decision to divest Alok Verma of his powers as Director, CBI,” Mr Kharge’s petition adds.
The senior Congress leader says the Central Vigilance Commission or CVC and the Department of Personnel and Training divesting Alok Verma of powers, functions and duties is a direct and concerted attempt to impede the independent functioning of the CBI director.
Mr Kharge’s party, the Congress, has accused PM Modi of hatching a “conspiracy” along with the CVC and the DoPT to divest Mr Verma of his powers before he could launch an investigation into the multi-crore Rafale fighter jet deal.
The government, however, maintains that action was taken against Mr Verma to help the CVC investigate bribery allegations against him without any hindrance.
Mr Verma and his deputy, Rakesh Asthana, were sent on leave by the government in a midnight ‘coup’ last month, capping the row that involved the officers accusing each other of bribery and Mr Asthana taking the agency to court over a First Information Report filed against him.