The Supreme Court on Tuesday set aside the October 23 orders of the Central government and the CVC divesting CBI Director Alok Kumar Verma of the charge of the probe agency, reinstating him to the post with immediate effect.
However, the judgment authored by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi restrains Verma from taking any major policy decisions until such time his case is finally disposed off by the Selection Committee under section 4A of the DSPE Act.
It had been observed that the spirit of the directions of the apex court in the 1997 Vineet Narain case cannot be disregarded, and the subsequent enactment of the CVC Act, introducing amendments to the DSPE Act, in pursuance of the 1997 judgment was with the object of ensuring absolute insulation of the CBI Director.
The top court has noted that the term 'transfer', as used in section 4B of the DSPE Act, cannot be understood in its traditional sense and must be interpreted as including actions which impact the functioning of the CBI Director.
Further, the bench of the Chief Justice and Justices S. K. Kaul and K. M. Joseph is also convinced that if there were to be a provision in respect of interim measures against the Director, the same would have been expressly laid down in the statute.
The judgment authored by CJI Ranjan Gogoi, which was read out by Justice Kaul in his absence, held that the word "transfer" has to be understood as encompassing all acts which affect the independent functioning of CBI Director. Thus, the judgment overruled the contention of the Attorney General that the action against Verma cannot be regarded as "transfer" or "removal", as he was merely taken off charge.
The Court further said that the SC directions in Vineet Narain case had intended to insulate the CBI Director completely form political pressure.
It was held that the directions of Vineet Narain case were incorporated into the statute. The DSPE Act did not enable the Government to take any interim measure against the CBI Director without the prior consent of the statutory committee.
The bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S K Kaul and KM Joseph had reserved orders on December 6.
It was on October 23 that the midnight order divesting Verma of the charge of CBI Director were issued by the Central Government.
The very next day he rushed to the SC, challenging the action.
F S Nariman, senior counsel appearing for Verma, argued that the CBI director cannot be removed without prior sanction of the High Powered Committee under Section 4(1) of the Delhi Special Police Establishment
The Attorney General K K Venugopal defended the Centre's decision by stating that Verma has neither been transferred nor been removed from the post of CBI Director. He continues to be CBI Director, but without the charge of the post. This action was taken in view of the corruption allegations against him, submitted the AG.
On October 25, the SC had directed the CVC to complete the enquiry against Verma within two weeks, under the supervision of retired SC judge Justice A K Patnaik. The Court also restrained the interim Director Nageshwara Rao from taking any major policy decisions regarding CBI, except carrying out day to day functions.
The CVC submitted its enquiry report in a sealed cover on November 16. The SC observed that the CVC report is "mixed' against Verma.
During the course of hearings, the Court had asked what prompted the hurried midnight action against Verma on October 23, when the complaint against him was pending since August 2018.
The issue has its genesis in the tussle which brewed up in CBI following the rift between Verma and Special Director Rakesh Asthana.
The AG submitted in Court that the Centre was forced to intervene due to the fight between two officers.
Asthana is named in an FIR relating to bribery allegations, challenging which he has approached the Delhi HC.
Alok Verma, who was appointed as CBI Director on January 20, 2017, is retiring on January 19.
The NGO Common Cause has too filed a PIL against Verma's removal. The PIL sought SIT probe into the corruption allegations against CBI officials. It alleged that Verma was handling investigation of "sensitive" cases and that he was "being victimised for taking action against Mr. Rakesh Asthana, a Gujarat cadre officer and also for entertaining complaint against the top functionaries of the present government".
The PIL was also heard along with Verma's petition and orders were reserved on it as well.
Read the Judgment Here