An NGO on Thursday moved the Supreme Court challenging the removal of Alok Verma as CBI Director and giving the charge to Joint Director M. Nagesawara Rao.
A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Sanjay Krishan Kaul and K.M. Joseph said "we will see" as counsel Prashant Bhushan sought an urgent hearing as some broader issues have been raised in the PIL by NGO Common Cause.
While challenging the government order asking Verma to proceed on leave, Common Cause sought direction for the removal of CBI Special Director Rakesh Asthana from the investigating agency for ensuring "institutional integrity" in the light of corruption cases pending against him.
Referring to the "multiple investigations" pending against Asthana, the PIL has contended that his continuation as Special Director was "improper, illegal and contrary to all principles of law, justice, public morality and has the effect of hampering a free, independent, fearless and thorough investigation being carried out" against him in these cases.
The PIL also sought setting up a SIT to look into the "recent unprecedented events which have unfolded in past few days and also to investigate the allegations of corruption against the senior officials of CBI and submit its report to Supreme Court".
Seeking the quashing of the October 23 Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) order by which Verma was divested of his charge as CBI Director and asked to proceed on leave, the PIL by Common Cause has also sought the quashing of the order by the Appointment Committee of Cabinet asking Nageswara Rao take over the responsibilities vacated by Verma.
Describing Nageswara Rao's appointment as acting head of the investigating agency as "bad in law", the NGO alleged that there was an "online investigation report published on www.savukkyonline.com which enumerates various lapses and instances of unprofessional conduct on the part of Nageswara Rao which merits further investigation".
The PIL has described as "gross violation of the law on the selection of CBI Director" in asking Nageswara Rao to take over the charge of CBI Director.
Pointing to the illegality, the PIL says that the CBI Director is appointed on the recommendation by a committee comprising the Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition and the Chief Justice of India and Section 4B(1) of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act (DSPE Act) says that CBI Director can be transferred with the consent of the committee that had recommended his appointment.
The PIL says that no CBI Director can be transferred, before the expiry of his two-year term, without the consent of the Committee as amended under the Lokpal Act.
"Even the withdrawal of work from the Director of CBI, which in effect would amount to transfer/removal, can't be done without the consent of the committee as provided in amended Section 4A."
The PIL said that the two orders issued on October 23 divesting Verma of his responsibilities as CBI Director much before the completion of his two year fixed term and vesting them in Joint Director Nageswara Rao was in "complete violation of the legal framework for the appointment as well as transfer/removal of the Director, CBI".
It contended that "even if there is allegation of corruption against Alok Verma, as stated in the removal order, the CVC, in the guise of power of superintendence, could not have withdrawn the work from Director CBI and handed over to a new officer without the consent of the committee" under amended Section 4A(1).
It further said at the most, the complaint against Verma should have been referred to the committee comprising Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition and the Chief Justice of India.
"It is apparent that the order withdrawing the work has been passed to frustrate the mandate of the DSPE Act since Verma could not have been removed before his fixed tenure without consulting the selection", said Common Cause.
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