New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday asked why the government had not consulted the selection panel before divesting CBI head Alok Verma of his powers.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi questioned the process followed to send Verma on leave after his feud with CBI No. 2 Rakesh Asthana became common knowledge. “Government has to be fair. What was the difficulty in consulting the selection committee before divesting Alok Verma of his power? Essence of every government action should be to adopt the best course,” CJI Gogoi told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta. He also said asked why the government could not have waited for a few more months instead of making its decision on October 23, considering that Verma’s retirement date is January 31.
The CJI also said that the feud between Verma and Asthana was not an overnight development and therefore, why was the selection committee not consulted before the decision to send Verma on leave.
Attorney General KK Venugopal responded to the bench by highlighting the need for remedial steps in the face of the in-house feud in CBI. “Two senior most officers were fighting and investigating cases against each other, instead of probing serious cases. CVC’s inaction would have been a dereliction of duty. CBI Director Alok Verma was not transferred and it was an artificial argument by him that he was transferred. It was not a transfer and two officers were divested of the charges and functions.”
A day earlier – on Wednesday, the attorney general had told SC that the fight between the two top officials had had a detrimental impact on the image of CBI. “Two top officers, Alok Kumar Verma and Rakesh Asthana, were fighting against each other and went public which exposed CBI to ridicule,” he said. “They were fighting like Kilkenny cats. If the government had not done so (divested them of their powers), only God knows where and how this fight between the two top officers would have ended.”
Verma has challenged the Centre’s decision to divest him of his powers. There are allegations of corruption that have been made against him by Asthana and Verma has hit back by making counter-allegations of similar nature.