The high-level selection committee led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has removed Alok Verma 48 hours after he was reinstated as director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) by the Supreme Court.
The decision was taken on Thursday evening in a closed-door meeting that lasted three hours. According to sources, the panel took into account serious allegations flagged by the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) in its report, which was being presented before the panel comprising Justice A K Sikri, besides Modi and Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge. Sikri was appointed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi as his representative.
The selection panel found merit in the charges levelled against him. It is of the view that being the head of a very sensitive organisation, Verma was not functioning with the integrity expected of him, said sources privy to the development. The panel was expected to decide whether Verma, whose term ends on January 31, will continue to be the top boss of the central agency.
Modi and Justice Sikri found his continuance untenable and hence he should be transferred. However, Kharge opposed the move. He wanted to put the decision on hold but the other two decided against it. Verma has been given charge of director general, fire services, civil defence and home guard. The panel is expected to announce his successor in a week.
Meanwhile, M Nageshwar Rao took charge as interim chief.
“The decision seems to have taken in haste. He (Verma) should have at least been given an opportunity to defend himself. It appears to be a planned move. The charges levelled against him needed a thorough examination and (the panel) should not have taken CVC findings as the last version,” said a former CBI official.
In a response to the insinuation that he was not given a chance to be heard, sources said Verma was given an opportunity to present his case before the CVC in the presence of retired Justice A K Patnaik. Further, his advocate has been given a copy of the CVC findings.
According to sources, the CVC supposedly found evidence of Verma influencing investigation in the Moin Qureshi case. There was also alleged evidence of Verma taking a bribe of Rs 2 crore.
The CVC was of the view that his conduct in the case was suspicious, and there was a prima facie case against him.
In the IRCTC case, the CVC felt it could be reasonably concluded that Verma excluded a name from the first information report for reasons best known to him. Besides, the vigilance office found instances of wilful non-production of record and record fabrication.
Kharge, who opposed the move, pointed out that six of the 10 allegations the CVC had found against Verma were either unsubstantiated or false while four had been found to be true on the basis of circumstantial evidence and needed to be further investigated.
According to sources, Kharge flagged the issue that the CVC himself was facing allegations. He said Verma should be given an opportunity to defend himself.
Kharge asked what the government intended to hide by removing Verma. He said Verma should not only have been reinstated but his tenure extended by 77 days to compensate for the loss after the government removed him.
Soon after resuming office, Verma had revoked at least 10 transfer orders issued by then director-in-charge M Nageshwar Rao and reshuffled portfolios of five others within 24 hours.
Verma had approached the Supreme Court after the government sent him and his deputy Rakesh Asthana on leave and appointed an interim chief in a midnight swoop on October 23.
Verma's office was sealed and members of his team were transferred overnight by Rao, who took charge as interim chief around 2 am that night.