The Supreme Court Tuesday termed as "unfortunate" the circumstances which led to the CVC order divesting CBI Director Alok Kumar Verma of his powers following a graft complaint forwarded to the corruption watchdog by the Cabinet Secretary.
The top court, which paved the way for comeback of Verma as CBI Director by setting aside orders of the CVC and the Centre divesting him of his duties and sending him on leave, noted the sequence of events which led to the October 23, 2018 directive.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said the Central Vigilance Commission's (CVC) order was "fairly long and elaborate" and it stated that a complaint dated August 24, 2018 was forwarded to it by the Cabinet Secretary through an August 31 letter which "prima facie" revealed charges of corruption against Verma.
"According to the CVC, instead of cooperating in the matter, the Director CBI (Verma) had sought information as to the identity of the person who had complained to the Cabinet Secretary in that regard and had gone to the extent of bringing specific allegations against the Special Director, CBI Rakesh Asthana," the bench, also comprising Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph, noted in the judgement.
It further noted that details of several cases of corruption wherein Asthana was alleged to be involved were also brought to the notice of the CVC by Verma.
The bench noted that on October 15 last year, an FIR was lodged by the CBI against Asthana and others on a complaint by Hyderabad-based businessman Satish Babu Sana, who is an accused in a case investigated by the special director of CBI.
"At the same time, the CVC also took note of the fact that Rakesh Asthana, Special Director, CBI had recorded information received from various sources that huge amounts of bribe were given to the Director CBI to avoid taking any action against Satish Babu Sana," the bench noted.
"It is in these circumstances, which may be in the least be termed as unfortunate, that the CVC had thought it proper to invoke its powers under Sections 8(1)(a), 8(1)(d) and 11 of the CVC Act to pass the impugned order dated October 23, 2018 divesting the Director CBI of his powers, functions, duties, etc....,"the bench said.
Verma had approached the apex court challenging the orders of the CVC and the Centre divesting him of his powers and sending him on leave.
In its judgement, the bench allowed Verma to come back as the CBI Director but said he would "cease and desist" from taking any major policy decisions until the committee, which selects the CBI chief, considers the issue related to divestment of his power and authority.
The top court set aside the October 23 last year orders of CVC and the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) divesting Verma of his powers and asking CBI's Joint Director M Nageshwar Rao to look after the duties and functions of the agency's Director.