CVC gets 2 weeks to probe CBI chief
New Delhi: Taking up Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) chief Alok Verma's case against the government for divesting him of his powers and sending him on forced leave, the Supreme Court Friday said a vigilance inquiry against him would be time-bound and monitored by an ex-Supreme Court judge. The court also said M Nageswar Rao, who was asked to stand in as interim CBI chief, cannot take any policy decision. A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi did not give any ruling on Verma's deputy Rakesh Asthana, who has also challenged his forced leave.
Hearing Verma's plea challenging the government's decision to divest him of his duties and send him on leave, the court sought a response from the CVC and the Centre.
The top court said that former Supreme Court judge A K Patnaik would oversee the CVC inquiry into allegations against Verma and the report has to be placed before it within two weeks, noting that the matter is of national importance and there should not be any delay.
All decisions taken by interim CBI chief Rao since October 23 to date shall not be implemented, and placed before it in a sealed cover on November 12, the bench said.
It also issued notices on the petition filed by an NGO, Common Cause, which has sought a Special Investigation Team (SIT) probe against CBI officers, including Special Director Rakesh Asthana.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Asthana, said he has also filed a petition in the matter.
The bench told Rohatgi that since his petition is not before it, the court would not hear him at this stage.
During the brief hearing Friday, senior advocate F S Nariman advanced arguments on behalf of the CBI chief.
He submitted that the CBI director was appointed with the approval of a selection panel having the Prime Minister, the Leader of Opposition and the Chief Justice of India.
Nariman referred to the CVC and Centre's orders divesting Verma of his duty. He also cited the Vineet Narain judgment to support Verma's pleas.
The Vineet Narain decision, delivered by the apex court in 1997, relates to the investigation of allegations of corruption against high-ranking public officials in India.
Verma, in his plea, has sought a stay of the Centre's order asking him to proceed on leave and giving the interim charge of his post to Rao, a 1986 batch Odisha-cadre IPS officer.
The feud between Verma and Asthana escalated recently leading to registration of an FIR against Asthana and others including Deputy Superintendent of Police Devender Kumar, who is in the CBI custody in an alleged bribery case.
Asthana and Kumar both challenged the FIR in the Delhi High Court, which on Tuesday ordered CBI to maintain status quo on the criminal proceedings against Asthana.
The Centre, the CVC and the DoPT intervened and decided to send the CBI Director and the Special Director on leave.
"We make it clear that entrustment of supervision of on-going enquiry by the CVC to a former judge of this court is one-time exception which has been felt necessary by this court in the peculiar facts of this case and should not be understood to be casting any reflection on any authority of the Government of India," said the bench, also comprising Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph.