Selection Panel shifts him to Fire Services, restores Rao as interim CBI chief for 2 weeks
The high-powered Selection Committee led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday sacked CBI Director Alok Verma after two-and-a-half hours meeting. Chief Justice of India’s nominee Justice AK Sikri and Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge were two other members of the Selection Committee.
The panel decided to sack Verma with a 2-1 majority, wherein Mallikarjun Kharge opposed his removal. Both Modi and Justice Sikri voted in favour of Verma’s removal. The committee had met on Wednesday but that meeting was inconclusive.
Interestingly, Kharge had filed a dissent note against Verma’s appointment as CBI chief during the Selection Committee meeting.
Verma was sacked on the basis of a CVC report charging him of corruption and dereliction of duty. The CVC report indicted Verma with eight counts of charges, including forming a coterie of officials of doubtful integrity.
Verma’s joy of reinstatement by the SC as the CBI boss after a gap of 77 days was short-lived as he could resume office for just two days. Verma is retiring from service on January 31.
The panel also decided to appoint a new CBI Director within two weeks and remove all officials of doubtful integrity from the agency.
The panel decided to transfer Verma as DG, Fire Services, Civil Defence and Home Guards. The Selection Committee also decided to make CBI Additional Director M Nageshwara Rao as the interim Director till the high powered committee decides on a name for posting as the new CBI Director. List of probables include Uttar Pradesh DGP OP Singh, NIA DG YC Modi and CISF chief Rajesh Ranjan.
Verma had resumed duty as CBI chief on Wednesday following a Supreme Court order reinstating him as the agency boss. Verma along with his deputy Rakesh Asthana were on October 23 sent on forced leave following a bitter feud between the two. Both Verma and Asthana leveled corruption allegations against each other. Verma also booked Verma in a graft case on October 15 despite express recommendation by the CVC not to go ahead with filing any FIR against Asthana.
Following this, the Central Vigilance Commission intervened to restore the integrity of the CBI and recommended their forced leave till an enquiry by the anti-corruption watchdog was over. Based on the CVC recommendation, the Government sent them on forced leave and appointed then Joint Director M Nageshwara Rao as the in-charge CBI chief during the pendency of the CVC probe against Verma.
Verma then moved the Supreme Court challenging the Government decision to send him on leave and divest him of his powers, functions and supervisory role in the CBI saying the post enjoys a two-years fixed tenure. The SC on Tuesday trashed the Government order to send Verma on leave and reinstated him as CBI chief. The apex court also directed the Centre to refer the issue of Verma’s removal to the high-powered Selection Committee.
Meanwhile, the Delhi High Court on Friday will decide on a plea of Asthana for quashing of the graft case registered at Verma’s behest.
While the SC order reinstating Verma as the CBI chief, it specifically barred him from taking any major policy decisions, but he continued with the spree to order transfers and posting in the agency. Verma had on Wednesday through two different orders rescinded transfers and postings done by incharge Director Rao. Rao had transferred 13 officials including the team probing the case against Asthana. Verma revoked most of the transfers and postings.
On Thursday too, Verma transferred or changed postings of seven officials, including the posting Superintendent of Police MK Gupta, to probe the bribery case against Asthana.
The CVC report also referred about the controversial meat exporter Moin Qureshi’s case and claimed that the CBI team looking into the case wanted to make Hyderabad-based businessman Sathish Babu Sana an accused in the case but Verma never gave clearance. The probe in this case was led by Asthana.
The CVC report also contained intercepts from the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), in which “money changing hands with number one in the CBI” is talked about, officials said.
Incidentally, Sana is the complainant for the bribery case against Asthana. Sana has also mentioned the name of Samant Goel, the second-in-command of RAW, of being involved in protecting the middleman, Manoj Prasad. The other case relates to a Preliminary Enquiry registered by the CBI about acquisition of land in Gurgaon. The CVC, in its report, alleged that Verma’s name had figured in the case and at least Rs 36 crore had changed hands. The CVC had recommended a thorough probe into the case.
The CVC, which has a superintendence role over the CBI, had also alleged that Verma tried to save an officer in the IRCTC case involving former Union Minister Lalu Prasad.
The Commission also alleged that Verma was trying to bring in tainted officials into the CBI. It claimed that efforts seeking cooperation from the CBI chief did not yield results as he continued to keep the files away from the CVC.