Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge has demanded that the government should make public the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) report that formed the basis for the ouster of CBI Director Alok Verma, which has been disowned by retired Supreme Court Judge A.K. Patnaik, causing embarrassment to the government.
He also termed the appointment of M. Nageshwara Rao as the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) interim Director “illegal” and sought an immediate meeting of the high-level Screening Committee to appoint a new Director.
“Despite my best efforts to convince the members of the Committee (Prime Minister and CJI nominee) that we should be following the due process of law and the principles of natural justice, the members chose to take a decision based on a report that now stands disowned by Justice Patnaik, who was asked by the Supreme Court to monitor the CVC inquiry,” he said in the letter.
Kharge cited media reports which quoted Justice Patnaik as saying that “there was no evidence of corruption against Verma” and what the CVC says cannot be the final word while terming the Committee’s decision as “very very hasty”.
“Such a huge embarrassment could have been avoided if the Committee had decided to independently examine a report of the CVC, the report of Justice Patnaik, the submissions of Alok Verma in his defence and drawn its own conclusions before reaching a decision.”
He said a Committee that consists of senior representatives of the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary should not take a decision merely on a report prepared by an outside agency, howsoever competent, without vetting the report and applying its mind.
“It is unfortunate the manipulative actions of the government are directly responsible for causing deep embarrassment to the judiciary. The fact that the government did not even issue a reasoned order while removing Alok Verma led to the unfair situation where a member of the judiciary has been forced to defend the decision taken indirectly.
“The government seems to be worried about something and in a tearing hurry disposed a man from his office, an irrational decision was taken to transfer Alok Verma as DG, Fire Services, even after his superannuation,” he said.
Kharge said the action of the government in handling the appointments in CBI had been consistently against the letter and spirit of the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act.
He also said that he had brought to the attention of the Committee that the appointment of Verma in 2017 did not completely satisfy the conditions under the DSPE Act “but it was not considered”.
Likewise, the initial removal of Verma was done in violation of the DSPE Act without involving the Committee and the final removal on January 10 was made without following either due process of law or the principles of natural justice.
“In each of the above instances, my advice, tendered on behalf of the opposition, has been consistently sidelined by the government,” he said.
Referring to the appointment of Nageshwara Rao as interim Director, the Congress leader said the Committee had not been consulted as the government seemed to have made up its mind on appointing him and the matter was never placed before it.
“This appointment of an interim Director is illegal and against Section 4A(1) and 4A(3) of the DSPE Act.”
He said the actions of the government indicate that it was scared of having a CBI headed by an independent Director.
“The government should come clean by releasing the CVC report, the report of Justice Patnaik and the minutes of the meeting held on January 10, 2019 so that the public can draw its conclusion on the matter.”
Kharge said the government should establish its bona fides in fighting corruption and ensuring the integrity of the premier investigative agency by convening an immediate meeting of the Special Committee as per the DSPE Act and appoint a Director without further delay.
Any delay would further erode the faith the public has placed in this institution and the credibility of the institution, he added.
Verma quit on Friday. He had rejoined office after the Supreme Court on Tuesday reinstated him as the CBI Director but with riders.
He was sent on forced leave by the government on October 23 after the fight between him and CBI Special Director Rakesh Asthana became public.