New Delhi, Jan 8 (IANS) The Congress and other opposition parties on Tuesday said the Supreme Court verdict reinstating Alok Verma as the CBI Director was a strong indictment of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government and alleged that he was sent on leave to forestall a probe into the Rafale deal.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, however, said that the verdict was not a setback for the government and it will comply with the order asking it to convene a meeting of the special committee of the selection panel within a week to look at the issue afresh.
While the Congress demanded restoration of the three months of Verma’s tenure lost due to his “illegal removal”, the CPI-M sought Modi’s resignation.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi led the party’s attack and said “CBI chief (Verma) was removed because he wanted to start a probe into the Rafale (deal). Now we have some justice, let’s see what happens…”Nothing is going to save the Prime Minister from Rafale…nothing”,” he said.
His view was echoed by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who said the prime minister feared a probe into the Rafale deal.
Congress Communications Department incharge Randeep Singh Surjewala accused a “despotic” Modi of destroying the independence of institutions and said the verdict was a slap on Modi and the government’s decisions and policies.
Alleging that Verma was “conspiratorially” removed to stifle a probable probe into the Rafale deal, Surjewala asked Modi to apologise to the nation for trampling upon the independence of the CBI, the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) and the RBI.
“The verdict is a lesson for Modi and his government. If Modi has even a semblance of faith in the constitution and rule of law, then he should restore three months of Verma’s tenure.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday reinstated Alok Verma as the CBI Director, setting aside the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) and the Centre’s order divesting him of his powers to function as the head of the investigating agency.
While restoring Verma’s powers, a bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and K.M. Joseph said that the matter will go to the high powered selection committee comprising the Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition and the Chief Justice, which will look into the issue.
Jaitley told reporters that the court apparently has strengthened the immunity given to the CBI Director in the larger interest of fair and impartial functioning of the CBI. At the same time, the court has devised an accountability mechanism which is in accordance with the norms of fair play, he said.
“And, therefore, in accordance with the directions of the court… obviously they will be complied with and the government will act in the same manner,” he said.
Jaitley, himself an eminent lawyer, said the government had taken the decision to send Verma and Special Director Rakesh Asthana on leave in accordance with the recommendations of the CVC in the larger interest of a fair and impartial investigation and larger credibility of the investigating agency.
The Minister said the action was taken “perfectly bona fide” because there were allegations and counter allegations made by both the officers.
The Minister said that in the Delhi Police Special Establishment Act, which deals with the functioning of the CBI, there are two separate provisions.
“One provision is, of course, very clear that in the matter related to the appointment, removal or transfer of the CBI Director, it can only be done by a special committee comprising Prime Minister, Chief Justice of India and the Leader of Opposition. There is another provision that in cases of corruption, the power of the superintendence over CBI is to be exercised by the CVC.
“The CVC has exercised that power by making that recommendation under that power of superintendence,” Jaitley said, adding that he has not read the judgement of the Supreme Court.
Kejriwal said the Supreme Court order was a “direct indictment of the Prime Minister”.
“Modi government has ruined all institutions and democracy in our country. Wasn’t CBI director illegally removed at midnight to stall the probe in Rafale scam which directly leads to PM himself,” the Aam Aadmi Party Chief tweeted.
The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), in a statement, said the apex court verdict was a strong indictment of Narendra Modi and said the Prime Minister should have quit.
It said the verdict “shows how the Modi government has subverted and subordinated every single rule and norm in the functioning of institutions like the CBI to suit its narrow political interests”.
Senior Supreme Court advocate Prashant Bhushan described the Supreme Court order as a “partial victory”, as he was not being given full powers.
Bhushan is one of the petitioners for the Common Cause NGO, which has challenged the order sending the CBI director on leave and divesting him of all powers.
Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said that it was high time the Centre stopped misusing agencies like the CBI and the NIA for political vendetta.
“Welcome SCs (Supreme Court) decision to reinstate #AlokVerma as CBI Dir. (It) reinstates belief in independent institutions of our democracy that are its pillars,” she tweeted.
“Time for the Central government to stop misusing its influence to arm twist investigative agencies like (the) NIA and CBI for political vendetta,” she added.