CBI case ruling setback for govt

CBI case ruling setback for govt

Interim director of the CBI M Nageswara Rao seen at Home Minister's office, in New Delhi, on Oct 25, 2018. PTI

The government and those who have supported CBI director Alok Verma’s petition challenging the divestment of his powers by the government have both welcomed the Supreme Court’s order in the case on Friday. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the court’s decision was “an extremely positive development’’. This may be mainly because the government’s action in sending Verma on forced leave has not been struck down by the court. On the other hand, the Congress has said that the court’s directive had “stopped a sinister attempt by the government to capture the CBI through lackeys’’ and it was a “slap in the face of tyrants’’. 

The court’s order is neither a vindication of the government’s action nor a slap on its face. But it is certainly a setback to the government as there is an implicit criticism of the government’s action in it. From the court’s order it is clear that it has not accepted the government’s action and its reasoning, and the correctness of the CVC’s recommendation which, according to the government, was the basis of its action. That is why it wants the charges against Verma, made by special director Rakesh Asthana and forwarded to the CVC by the cabinet secretary, to be investigated by the CVC in two weeks. It wants the investigation to be done under the supervision of Justice AK Patnaik, a former judge of the court. The court did not say this was because it did not trust the CVC, but it is clear that it wanted the investigation to be most fair and beyond reproach. It could not, in any case, have allowed Verma to function as the CBI director when he faced an investigation, and so this cannot be considered a victory for the government.  

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Verma had also challenged the appointment of M Nageshwar Rao as the interim director of the CBI. The court has not removed Rao but has virtually done so by clipping his powers, by restraining him from taking any policy decisions and asking him to submit to the court, for scrutiny, a list of the decisions he has already taken. The court has ensured that no actions are taken that will change the status of the case or the nature of the issues before it when the case is under its consideration. The court did well to fix a deadline for the completion of
the investigation. There may be a demand for investigation of more charges other than those specifically mentioned in the cabinet secretary’s letter, because there is a mention of “certain other serious charges’’ in the letter. But prolongation of the investigation on this or other grounds will make the case infructuous.