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Back from exile: CBI boss Alok Verma resumes office with limited powers after Supreme Court’s landmark ruling

News Nation Bureau | Edited By : Surabhi Pandey | Updated on: 09 Jan 2019, 11:33:54 AM
Congress chief Rahul Gandhi had claimed that Alok Verma was sacked because he was willing to probe the Rafale deal. (IANS Photo)

New Delhi:

A day after the Supreme Court overturned the midnight decision of Narendra Modi government of sending CBI chief Alok on a forced leave, Verma resumed office ending his 77-day long exile. There are reports that Verma was received by none other than Nageshwar Rao at the entrance. Rao was appointed as the interim CBI chief after the controversial order by the Modi government in October last year. But one thing to keep in mind is that Verma is back at work with limited powers. The Supreme Court, in its crucial order, refrained Verma from taking any major policy-related decisions. But he will be able to do routine work as the CBI chief, including registration of FIRs. Verma's term as the CBI chief will end on January 31 and it is highly unlikely his term will be extended.

Also Read | Alok Verma reinstated as CBI chief. Can he order probe into Rafal deal?

On October 23 last year, Modi government had sent and his deputy Special Director Rakesh Asthana, booked by the agency on corruption charges, into exile in a first-of-its-kind move by the government in the agency's history. While Verma termed the government's order illegal and challenged it in the Supreme Court, the Modi government told the court that the decision was taken on the recommendation of the Central Vigilance Commission to save the agency's image as Verma and his deputy – special director Rakesh Asthana – were fighting like "cats".

In sending Verma on leave, the government overlooked the immunity given to the CBI director by the Supreme Court ensuring a two-year minimum tenure to protect the incumbent from any political interference.

Also Read | CBI officers were sent on leave post-CVC's recommendation, says Arun Jaitley

The government tried to justify its decision, saying it became necessary amid an unprecedented feud between the two senior-most officials of the agency who had levelled charges of corruption on each other, an argument rejected by the apex court Tuesday. Congress president Rahul Gandhi had alleged that the decision to "sack" Verma was taken out of fear as he was willing to investigate the alleged irregularities in the Rafale fighter aircraft deal. The CBI had then rebutted the Congress chief's claims, saying "This is being manufactured by vested interests. Every file in the CBI at each level is accounted for."

The government had given charge to then Joint Director M Nageswara Rao who was later promoted as additional director in the agency. Verma had challenged the move in the Supreme Court which clipped the powers of Rao as director in-charge and barred him from taking any major policy decision till a final order comes from it.

The Supreme Court in Vineet Narayan judgment had fixed a minimum tenure of two years for the CBI director to give him immunity from any political interference. Later, through Lokpal Act, the process of selecting the CBI director was handed over to a selection committee.

The selection committee comprises the prime minister, the leader of opposition and the chief justice of India.   

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First Published : 09 Jan 2019, 11:18:24 AM