SC reinstates Alok Verma as CBI Director, but clips his wings

Court asks the PM-led panel to consider the question of his divestment in a week

The Supreme Court on Tuesday “reinstated” exiled CBI Director Alok Verma, but ordered him to “cease and desist” from taking any major policy decisions till a high-power committee led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi decides the question of his divestment in a week. Now, with just a few days left before the end of his tenure as CBI Director, Mr. Verma’s fate hinges on the decision of this committee comprising Mr. Modi, Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Congress MP Mallikarjun Kharge, as Leader of the Opposition.

Asthana’s complaint:

Their call would be based on the allegations levelled against him in a complaint filed by rival CBI officer R.K. Asthana. The complaint had led to a Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) inquiry and his divestment from office. The court itself has not commented on the merits of these allegations. The judgment, delivered by a three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice Gogoi, however concluded that the CVC and the government acted outside their authority to unilaterally divest Mr. Verma and appoint M. Nageshwar Rao as the interim CBI Director in back-to-back decisions taken overnight on October 23 last year. The court set aside both orders.

The judgment was written by Chief Justice Gogoi, who was on leave. The puisne judges on the Bench, Justices S.K. Kaul and K.M. Joseph, presided over the pronouncement of judgment in open court. Justice Kaul read out excerpts. ‘Only routine works’ Thus the court, though placing Mr. Verma back on the saddle, has effectively clipped his wings. His authority as CBI Director would be confined to “ongoing routine functions” till the Prime Minister-led committee decides. The court ordered him not to undertake “any fresh initiative” with major policy or institutional implications in the interregnum. It dismissed the claims of superintendence over the CBI made by the government and the CVC.

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