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Supreme Court reserves order on CBI director Verma's plea against sending him on leave

ANI  |  New Delhi [India] 

The on Thursday reserved its order on petitions filed by (CBI) and NGO Common challenging the Central Government's decision to send him on leave and divesting him of all responsibilities.

A bench of Ranjan Gogoi, Justice and Justice KM Joseph reserved the order after hearing the arguments of Verma, Union Government, (CVC), Common Cause, and others who were party in the case.

During the hearing, while confronting questions over Centre's sudden decision to send Verma on leave, CVC told the that "extraordinary situations sometimes need extraordinary remedies". (SG) Tushar Mehta, representing CVC in the case, made the argument while backing the Commission's decision. The Solicitor General's remark came after the questioned Mehta why didn't the CVC consult the before taking a decision in haste.

"has to be fair. What was the difficulty in consulting the before divesting of his power? The essence of every action should be to adopt the best course," CJI said while questioning Mehta.

The CJI also raised questions over the timing of the order and said: "Fight between the two senior most officers did not emerge overnight. You had tolerated since July, it is not something that required immediate action as the circumstances were culminating for a long time...So why did the take immediate steps to divest the of his powers without consulting the " asked the bench.

In response, Mehta replied that it was not a transfer as Verma is still the CBI director which is why the consent of Selection Committee was not required. Mehta added that the CVC took cognizance of the emergent situation owing to which they made an interim arrangement. Further pressing on the exceptional nature of the situation, Mehta said: "Extraordinary situation arose, CVC order was passed impartially. Two senior most officers were fighting and investigating cases against each other, instead of probing serious cases. CVC's inaction would have been a dereliction of duty."

The CVC's superintendence over CBI encompasses surprise, extraordinary situations, Mehta said, adding that "situations may arise which is not provided in law and authority has to address surprise situations. The CVC will become toothless if it doesn't act."

appearing for the DoPT told the bench that government was well within its jurisdiction to send both officers (Verma and CBI Rakesh Asthana) on leave by divesting them of their powers.

Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Asthana, told the bench that the issue relating to suspension, departmental enquiry and dismissal lie within the sole domain of

During the hearing, Fali Nariman, appearing for Verma apprised the bench that in all circumstances the CVC and Centre should have consulted the Selection Committee. "Transfer includes divesting of functions and not just transfer from one place to another," he added. Verma had registered FIR against Asthana and this was the reason for the (DoPT) to divest him of his powers and functions, Nariman contended.

Dushyant Dave, appearing for NGO Common Cause, told the court that there was a dichotomy in arguments of Centre and CVC with regard to superintendence power over the CBI. He said that the CVC has power of superintendence only with regard to cases under Prevention of Corruption Act and CVC cannot replace the Director of CBI. Dave also questioned the timing of the transfer. "Why was the CBI Director removed at 2 am in the midnight," Dave argued.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal appearing for Mallikarjun Kharge, who had filed plea against Centre's and CVC decision of sending Verma on leave, argued that government does not have the power to remove or transfer the CBI Director.

"Transfer amounts to a public casting of doubt on the CBI Director. Approval of Selection Committee for transfer is a ring fence to protect CBI Director from executive influence, without this, the office will be in jeopardy," Sibal said.

Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for of Police A.K. Bassi, who was transferred to Port Blair, argued that the very core of the issue is the autonomy of the CBI. "The DoPT order removed the CBI Director before a fixed tenure of two years. No matter what you call it, effectively it is a removal," Dhavan said.

During the Wednesday's hearing of the case, Venugopal had defended the Centre's decision over sending Verma on leave and said that the dispute between Verma and Asthana was tarnishing the reputation of the institution. He had added that both the top officials of the investigating agency were "fighting like Kilkenny cats".

The top court was hearing a petition filed by Verma against the Central Government's order to send him on leave in view of the corruption allegations levelled against him. The had recently sent Verma and his deputy Asthana on leave after both levelled allegations of accepting bribes against each other. However, the CBI on October 25 informed that Verma and Asthana would continue to retain their posts as CBI Director and Special Director, respectively.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Thu, December 06 2018. 18:55 IST