Alok Verma will forever have the ignominy of being the first CBI chief in the institution’s 55-year history to be removed on charges of corruption and impropriety. That too, when he and his backers were in a celebratory mood.
Worse, Verma was removed after a months’ long process of each step being vetted by the Supreme Court, either by a bench headed by Chief Justice of India or by his nominee and the Central Vigilance Commission examining various allegations against Verma; being sent on leave by the government on recommendations of CVC; the Supreme Court examining the veracity of those allegations and the government’s decision to send him on leave; the Supreme Court nominating retired apex court judge AK Patnaik to supervise the investigation process of the CVC so that a fair and impartial probe could be conducted; the Supreme Court reinstating Verma on technical grounds with a “cease and desist” order with respect to policy matters; and CJI nominee Justice AK Sikri on a three-member high-powered committee concurring with CVC findings and approving Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s position.
Those backing Verma would like the public to believe he was thrown out of CBI by a “desperate” and “panicked” Prime Minister Narendra Modi because he was about to register an FIR on the Rafale deal.
They conveniently forget two points: First, that the Supreme Court has already given a verdict on Rafale endorsing the government’s position and dismissing allegations of foul play. Second, Verma was sacked because Supreme Court nominee on the panel Justice AK Sikri was convinced Verma could not be allowed to continue as CBI director. The position of Leader of Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge was already known: Kharge challenged the government’s decision to send Verma on leave.
The PM’s position was clear: the government wanted Verma out. Thus, Justice Sikri’s opinion mattered most. Sikri, a sitting judge, was the SC’s representative on the panel and thus Verma’s ouster bore the apex court’s stamp of approval.
The Opposition’s behaviour raises questions. How did Congress chief Rahul Gandhi and Prashant Bhushan anticipate that the high-powered committee would oust Verma?
On 9 January, soon after the news of the PM calling the committee meeting on Wednesday night broke, Bhushan tweeted:
Seems that the government is so desperate to prevent the restored CBI director Alok Verma from filing any FIR in the Rafale case, that they are calling a meeting of the high powered committee within a day or two to disable him. Why such desperation to avoid any investigation? https://t.co/cuUWGEENxn
— Prashant Bhushan (@pbhushan1) January 9, 2019
Ahead of the second committee meeting on Thursday, Rahul tweeted:
1. Why is the PM in such a tearing hurry to sack the CBI Chief? 2. Why will he not allow the CBI Chief to present his case in front of the selection committee ? Answer: RAFALE — Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) January 10, 2019
Rahul and Bhushan should happy been happy that the government was rather speedily convening a meeting of the committee comprising the PM, Chief Justice of India (or his nominee) and Leader of Opposition the day after the Supreme Court verdict, even though the apex court had given the Centre a week to do so. Did Congress and Verma’s other backers know they had a weak hand and Verma — who was on a sticky wicket — had to go? If not, they should have welcomed government’s promptness.
Another point to be noted: Kharge had his dissent note prepared. Minutes after he emerged from the meeting, his six-page note was all over social media, digital media and broadcast media. Surely, Kharge couldn’t possibly have prepared such a voluminous dissent note during the meeting. Even a cursory look at the six-page note suggests long hours and a great deal of deliberation went into preparing the note.
The question is: What made Kharge believe the CJI nominee would endorse the CVC and PM’s position? Unless of course, he and his party knew they were backing a person whose ‘karma’’ wouldn’t allow him to remain at that critical post.
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Updated Date: Jan 11, 2019 17:34 PM