The Supreme Court on Tuesday reinstated Alok Kumar Verma as director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), but restrained him from taking any major policy decision till a probe against him for alleged corruption is over.
It set aside the government's decision to appoint senior IPS officer M Nageswara Rao as the agency's interim chief. The court did not address the case of the CBI's second-in-command, Rakesh Asthana.
The court said a committee, which appoints the CBI director and comprises the prime minister, the leader of opposition and the chief justice of India, should be convened within a week to study the Central Vigilance Commission's (CVC) probe against Verma.
Welcoming the ruling, the opposition Congress Party said the court had "lambasted" the government's decision to place Verma on leave. "The CBI chief was ousted at 1 am in the night because he was about to begin a probe into the Rafale deal. The CBI chief has been reinstated and we have got some relief. Now let's see what happens," said Congress President Rahul Gandhi, referring to India's agreement with France to buy Rafale fighter jets.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley defended the government's decision to remove Verma and Asthana, but told reporters that it would comply with the court's ruling. "This action taken was perfectly bonafide as there were cross-allegations made by both the officers, and in accordance with recommendations of the CVC. The government felt that in the larger interest of fair and impartial investigation and credibility of CBI, the two officers must recuse themselves," he said.
Verma's two-year tenure as CBI chief ends on January 31. The Centre had removed him and Asthana on October 23, saying that they were exposing the CBI to "public ridicule" by fighting like "Kilkenny cats".
The CBI is currently investigating several high profile cases, including a $2 billion fraud at Punjab National Bank involving fugitive diamond billionaire Nirav Modi and loan defaults by liquor baron Vijay Mallya.
(With inputs from PTI)