As an accomplished lawyer, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has tried his best to make light of the setback that his government received with the Supreme Court’s order on the reinstatement of Central Bureau of Investigation chief Alok Verma. The damage, however, has been done—to the government as well as the premier agency.
While calling the verdict a “balanced decision,” Jaitley went on to say, “The government’s action was perfectly bona fide as there were cross allegations made by both the officers and in accordance with the recommendations of the CVC [Central Vigilance Commission]. The government had felt that in the larger interest of fair and impartial investigation and credibility of CBI, the two officers must recuse themselves.”
FM:This action was taken perfectly bonafide as there were cross-allegations made by both the officers,&in accordance with recommendations of CVC.The govt had felt that in the larger interest of fair&impartial investigation&credibility of CBI,the 2 officers must recuse themselves.— ANI (@ANI) January 8, 2019
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley: The government had taken this action of sending two senior officers of the CBI on leave on the recommendation of the CVC. (File pic) pic.twitter.com/Nsqdvn9dnK— ANI (@ANI) January 8, 2019
At best, this is a face-saving statement. The fact is that Verma is back, though the apex court has stipulated that he “will cease and desist from taking any major policy decisions.” He has been advised to remain “confined only to the exercise of the ongoing routine functions without any fresh initiative, having no major policy or institutional implications.”
FM Jaitley: SC apparently has strengthened the immunity given to CBI director in larger interest of fair&impartial investigation. Therefore in accordance with direction of SC, orders will be complied with and the govt will act in the same manner pic.twitter.com/GyBDUPVyR1— ANI (@ANI) January 8, 2019
Evidently, transfers are outside the purview of major policy decisions, so he has struck back by bringing back the officers who were transferred in the wake of his own removal from the top post. He has brought back A.K. Sharma, a Gujarat-cadre officer, to the important post of Joint Director (Policy), from the Multi-Disciplinary Monitoring Agency. Similarly, Anish Prasad again resumes charge as DIG of SU-1 (Surveillance) unit. He is said to be a key figure in the fight between Verma and former No.2, Special Director Rakesh Asthana.
Also reinstated are DIG M.K. Sinha, Additional SP S.S. Gurm, and DySPs A.K. Bassi and Ashwani Gupta. A couple of months ago, in his petition in the Supreme Court against his transfer, Sinha had hurled serious charges at National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.
Verma was removed from his post without the approval of the high-powered committee because, Attorney General K.K. Venugopal told the apex court, the panel’s mandate was limited to recommending names for the post of CBI Director. The decision, he claimed, was made in public interest; the government didn’t want people’s faith and restore confidence in the CBI should not be eroded, which was happening because of the incessant bickering between Verma and Asthana.
The high-powered selection committee is headed by the Prime Minister and also comprises the Leader of the Opposition and the Chief Justice of India. After the Supreme Court decision, the panel met under Narendra Modi. Supreme Court Justice A.K. Sikri, attending on behalf of CJI Ranjan Gogoi, and leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge are other members. As nothing could be decided, the committee is expected to meet again at 4 p.m. on January 10.