Here’s why Justice AK Sikri backed Alok Verma’s ouster

New Delhi: The ouster of Alok Verma as the CBI Director by the Selection Committee on Thursday, has once again given rise to a fresh tussle between the BJP-led central government and the Opposition, led by the Congress over the issue.

The decision to remove Verma was taken by the committee headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and comprising Leader of Congress in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge. While the Chief Justice of India is also a member of the Committee but at yesterday’s meeting, he was represented by Justice AK Sikri, the senior most judge of the Supreme Court.

Verma was removed from the post on account of the “extremely serious nature of observations made by the CVC against him”. A 1979-batch IPS officer, he was posted as DG, Fire Services, Civil Defence, and Home Guards, three days after he was reinstated as the CBI Director by the Supreme Court.

His reinstatement had come about two-and-a-half months after being divested of his powers and sent on leave by the government.

While there has been a hue and cry over Verma’s ouster from the CBI, former Supreme Court judge Markandey Katju spoke to Justice Sikri earlier in the day and explained the latter’s decision in a Facebook post.

In the post titled – ‘Once again about Justice A.K.Sikri’, Katju wrote: “Yesterday, I had put up a fb (sic) post about Justice AK Sikri, Judge, Supreme Court, who was on the 3-member committee which resolved (by a 2-1 majority) to remove Alok Verma from the post of Director, CBI.

“Many people commented on the post asking why Alok Verma was not given a hearing by the committee before taking its decision, so I telephoned Justice Sikri this morning and asked him what he has to say about this. I also took his permission to put up this post on fb (sic).”

Quoting Justice Sikri, Katju said that the CVC had recorded prima facie findings of guilt on some serious charges against Verma on the material before it and had given a hearing to Verma before recording its prima facie findings.
“In view of these serious prima facie findings of guilt, and after perusing the material on which they were based, Justice Sikri was of the opinion that until the matter was fully investigated and a final decision given about the guilt or innocence of Verma he should not remain on the post of Director, CBI but should be shifted to another post equivalent in rank,” Katju elaborated.

Further quoting Justice Sikri, Katju clarified that Verma was not “suspended but only transferred retaining his salary and perks”.

“Verma’s service has not been terminated, as some people believe. He has not even been suspended, but only transferred retaining his salary and perks,” read the post.

“As regards the question of not giving a hearing to Verma, it is a settled principle that even suspension can be done without giving the accused a hearing, and suspensions pending enquiry are very common. It is only dismissal which cannot be done without a hearing,” Katju wrote.

In Verma’s place, 1986-batch IPS officer M Nageswara Rao, who was the Additional Director of CBI, took over as the probe agency’s Director.

He will be serving the post until the appointment of a new Director or until further orders, whichever is earlier, according to an order issued by the Department of Personnel and Training.