SC says vigilance report against CBI chief Alok Verma gave mixed findings

The Supreme Court has taken up on Friday CBI director Alok Verma’s petition challenging the government’s move to divest him of his powers after it deferred the hearing following a delay by the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) in handing over a report on allegations of bribery against him.

A three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, is also likely to consider the report of the commission, placed before it in a sealed cover, with regard to the probe into the allegations against Verma.

The top court, in its October 31 order, had directed the CVC to probe corruption charges against Verma under the supervision of retired Supreme Court judge AK Patnaik, and submit its report in two weeks. The commission, however, submitted the report a day late on November 16.

The bench is also likely to consider the report of acting CBI director M Nageswara Rao with regard to the decisions taken by him from October 23-26.

Besides the plea filed by Verma, the court is also seized of the public interest litigation or PIL filed by NGO Common Cause, which has sought a probe by a special investigation team against CBI officers.

The court has issued notices to the Centre, CBI, CVC, special CBI director Rakesh Asthana, Verma and Rao asking them to respond to it by November 12. The CVC had filed its preliminary enquiry report in the top court on November 12.

Verma was divested of his responsibilities on the intervening night of October 23 and 24 after his running feud with his deputy Asthana threw the federal investigation agency into disarray.

Asthana wrote to the cabinet secretary on August 24, alleging Verma’s interference in sensitive cases and claiming that the director had taken a bribe. The cabinet secretary asked CVC to look into the matter.

On October 15, CBI, in turn, filed an FIR against Asthana accusing him of corruption.

Verma challenged the CVC order divesting him of his responsibilities before the Supreme Court, resulting in the Patnaik-monitored time-bound probe.

Both Verma and Asthana have appeared before CVC.

On October 26, the top court had appointed justice Patnaik to supervise the ongoing inquiry of CVC against Verma and also set a deadline of two weeks for the CVC to complete the preliminary inquiry against the CBI director.

The Supreme Court had issued notices to the Centre and the CVC seeking their replies on Verma’s petition challenging the government’s decision to divest him of his powers as CBI chief and sending him on leave.

Besides, it had barred Rao from taking any major policy decision but granted him liberty to perform routine tasks that are essential to keep the CBI functional.