Supreme Court of India intervened in the ongoing dispute in the CBI by ordering Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) to complete the inquiry against the current CBI Director Alok Verma in two weeks.
Roots of dispute in the top investigative agency of the country were first observed in October 2017 when the Director of CBI Alok Verma objected to the appointment of Rakesh Asthana as CBI special director. Mr. Rakesh Asthana reported to CVC that Mr. Verma and others were involved in corruption cases. Alok Verma filed a complaint against CBI special director Rakesh Asthana accusing him of bribery and corruption. The feud between the two senior-most officials of CBI became public. Government to maintain harmony in the functioning of CBI compulsorily sent both the top officers on leave relieving them of their duties. Mr. M. Nageswar Rao became the interim chief of CBI.
Mr. Verma by way of writ petition challenged the order of government dated 23.10.2018 relieving him of his duties and sending him on leave before the Supreme Court of India. Mr. Asthana also moved to Supreme Court of India challenging decision of government sending him on compulsory leave.
NGO Common Cause also filed a writ petition related to the facts of present matter praying Supreme Court-monitored probe into corruption allegations against CBI top officials, removal of CBI Special Director and the current interim CBI Director as both are accused of corruption.
Arguments Advanced And Verdict Of The Court
Senior Advocate Fali S. Nariman appearing for Mr. Verma argued that Supreme Court judgment of Vineet Narain protected CBI from government action and same was incorporated in the legislation by Central Vigilance Commission Act of 2003 and amendments to Delhi Special Police Establishment Act of 1946 (DSPE). He further argued that under DSPE Act it is clearly mentioned that CBI Director is appointed for a fixed term of two years by a High-Powered Committee and CBI director can be transferred only with the previous consent of the Committee. The order passed by the government is done without consulting the committee and hence, bad in law.
Calling this a case of national importance that should be dealt with immediately, Bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice S.K Kaul, Justice K M Joseph issued an interim order giving a string of directions to be followed which were as follows:
- Inquiry against the CBI Director must be finished within 10 days under the supervision of a retired Supreme Court Judge namely A.K Patnaik.
- Interim CBI Director will not take any policy decisions and will carry out only day to day routine work of CBI. Further, the government or CBI will submit in court a list of major decisions taken by interim CBI in a sealed cover.
Attorney General K.K Venugopal prayed for more time to be granted to CVC for conducting the inquiry. To which the Bench replied by saying that right now the scope of inquiry is limited to finding out if there is a prima facie case or not.
Court refused to hear Senior Advocate Mukul Rohtagi appearing on behalf of Mr. Asthana saying that
“we cannot hear you on something, not before us. File a separate writ”.
Petition to that effect was filed the same day.
Senior Advocate Dushyant Dave appearing for NGO Common Cause questioned the method of appointment of CBI Special Director Mr. Rakesh Asthana as certain cases were pending against him. Mr. Dave also brought to the knowledge of the bench that newly appointed interim Director CBI transferred officials overnight and investigations those matters must be protected from being affected.
Supreme Court rightly stepped into the matter as this interim order will make sure that CBI continues to function smoothly and at the same time if any top-officer who is involved in any corruption case will be revealed. The interim order passed also makes sure that the entire matter is resolved quickly.