PM-led selection committee removes Alok Verma as CBI chief

Alok Kumar Verma
Alok Kumar Verma
The high-powered selection committee headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi today decided 2-1 to remove Alok Verma as the Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), two days after the Supreme Court reinstated him in the position with some riders.
Mallikarjun Kharge, leader of the Congress, the largest Opposition party, in the Lok Sabha disagreed with the move and gave a note of dissent.
The third member of the panel, Supreme Court judge Justice A K Sikri, who was nominated by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi to represent him, appeared to have agreed with the Government's view in the matter.
Mr. Verma, an Indian Police Service  (IPS) officer of the 1979 batch (AGMU cadre), has been transferred from his post and posted as Director General, Fire Services, Civil Defence & Home Guards.
Shortly after the meeting of the selection committee ended, the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) approved the transfer.
"Shri Alok Kumar Verma, IPS(AGMU:79) is transferred from the post of Director, CBI and posted as Director General, Fire Services, Civil Defence & Home Guards for the residual period of his present term ending on 31.01.2019.
"As per the earlier arrangement, Shri M. Nageshwar Rao, IPS(OD:86), Additional Director, CBI, will look after the duties of the Director, CBI till the appointment of a new Director, CBI, or until further orders, whichever is earlier," a notification from the Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT) said.
Mr. Verma and CBI Special Director Rakesh Asthana were, in dramatic develoments in the early hours of October 24 amidst an unprecedented internal rift, sent on leave joint director M. Nageshwar Rao was given interim charge of the agency.
Those developments had come three days after the CBI registered a case against Mr. Asthana, the number two in the agency, alleging that he had accepted a bribe to settle a case of meat exporter Moin Qureshi, who is facing multiple cases of money laundering and corruption.
Mr. Asthana had earlier, in August, levelled bribery charges against Mr. Verma in letters sent to the Cabinet Secretary.
As a follow-up to the first information report (FIR) filed against Mr. Asthana , the agency had arrested Mr. Devendra Kumar, a deputy superintendent of police (DSP)-rank officer. He was accused of fabricating a witness statement which had formed the basis of Mr. Asthana's complaint against Mr. Verma.
Mr. Verma had approached the Supreme Court against his removal and it had, in a partial relief to him, on January 8 restored him as the head of the agency by setting aside the decisions of the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) and the Centre to divest him of his powers to function as its head but with a caveat that he will not take any policy decision till the high-level committee, which appoints the CBI chief, goes into the issue afresh.
Disposing of a petition filed by Verma and an NGO, Common Cause, a bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and K. M. Joseph had said Verma would "cease and desist" from taking any policy decisions till the issue of denuding of his powers was decided by the High Power Committee (HPC) comprising the Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition and the Chief Justice of India.
"We deem it proper to direct that... Verma ... upon reinstatement will cease and desist from taking any major policy decisions till the decision of the Committee permitting actions and decisions becomes available within the time-frame indicated," the court said in its order and directed the HPC to meet within a week from Tuesday.
While restoring Verma, the top court junked the Centre's order asking Joint Director M. Nageswara Rao to look after the duties and functions of CBI Director.
Opposition parties have been attacking the government on the issue, accusing it assaulting the independence and autonomy of CBI while the government defended the action as necessary because of the squabbling at the top and the need to protect the credibility of the organisation.
Today's meeting of the high-powered committee was the second in the last two days. It had held its first meeting yesterday.
In the meantime, Verma, who resumed charge as CBI Director yesterday, revoked most of the transfer orders issued by Mr. Nageshwar Rao in the past few weeks.
The Congress was critical of Verma's removal. "By removing #AlokVerma from his position without giving him the chance to present his case, PM Modi has shown once again that he's too afraid of an investigation, either by an independent CBI director or by Parliament via JPC," the party said on micro-blogging site Twitter.

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