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Political slugfest after top CBI officials divested of their duties

Thursday October 25, 2018 0:03 AM, News Network

Alok Verma Ashok Asthana CBI

New Delhi: A war of words erupted between the ruling Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP), and Congress and other opposition parties after the Union Government in the late night decision Tuesday divested Alok Kumar Verma and Rakesh Asthana of their roles as Director and Special Director of CBI respectively.

The decision has been taken on the recommendations of Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), the government sources said.

The government simultaneously appointed M. Nageshwar Rao to look after the duties and functions of Director CBI. Nageshwar Rao, an IPS officer, is presently working as Joint Director.

Reacting to the sudden and unprecedented move, Congress President Rahul Gandhi accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of removing Alok Verma as CBI Director in a bid to stop him from investigating the Rafale "scam".

He also alleged that the prime minister "broke the law" and "bypassed" the Chief Justice of India and the Leader of Opposition, who were part of the panel that selected the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) chief. There was no immediate reaction from the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) on the allegations.

Congress MP Abhishek Manu Singhvi also questioned the CVC’s power to send the CBI’s highest officers on ‘leave’ and attacked PM Modi and the ruling BJP for interfering in the investigation into bribery charges against CBI Special Director Rakesh Asthana.

Singhvi said that the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) has no powers to interfere in appointment, removal or reappointment of the CBI Director.

“The CVC is misleading the nation and it is being misused by the govt of India. Like all other institutions, the CVC’s institution has also been misused,” Singhvi said while addressing the media in New Delhi.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, when asked about his stand on the issue, said maintaining the institutional integrity of the CBI should be the prime concern. He also defended the government’s action of sending the two officers on leave by saying that it merely acted on the recommendations of the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC).

Jaitley also refuted Singhvi’s claims saying that under Section 4A of the CBI Act, the CVC has powers of superintendence in terms of investigative functions and so in relation to Prevention of Corruption Act cases, the power of superintendence over investigation is with the CVC.

Meanwhile, Alok Verma has moved the Supreme Court against the Centre’s decision to send him on ‘temporary leave’. Verma told the Supreme Court that the autonomy of the country's premier investigating agency is being compromised and by malintent that includes when "certain investigations into high functionaries do not take the direction that may be desirable to the government".

In his petition Verma also said that Asthana "concocted evidence" against him to accuse him of corruption and that he was inevitably at odds with the opinion of majority officers in sensitive cases. Asthana, a Gujarat cadre IPS officer, is said to be close to Prime Minister Modi. Rahul Gandhi had recently called him as "PM Modi's blue-eyed boy".

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