CRISIS IS ABOUT RULE OF LAW, NOT CBI

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India is the biggest democracy in the world, which can be lenient but surely not blind. Democracy has given its citizens many privileges, but some have learned to misuse those privileges. One of such privilege for Indian citizens is Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which is an apex investigating agency of the country, where citizens seek justice when they are left with no hope. But imagine if a tussle begins within the agency which will make the agency hollow from within then whom shall citizens of this country will visit for the scope of help.

Yes, something like this is giving us hiccups since past week. The unprecedented Stir in the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) came over corruption allegations when agency’s warring No 1 and No 2 — Director Alok Verma and his deputy Rakesh Asthana accused each other of taking bribes.

The biggest turn in the ongoing crisis came when the Centre-initiated ‘order of leave’ forced upon the two officials, particularly against CBI Director Alok Verma, which has been seen as a case of the Modi government’s high-handedness, done in an alleged offer to shield the government’s ‘blue-eyed boy’ Rakesh Asthana aka the No 2 in the agency from investigation.

WHO ARE THE MAIN PLAYERS?

After the retirement of Anil Sinha, on January 2017 Alok Verma took over as CBI’s 27th director. A 1979 batch IPS officer of the Arunachal Pradesh-Goa-Mizoram and Union Territories (AGMUT) cadre, Verma also held the post of Delhi Police Commissioner.

Rakesh Asthana, a 1984-batch Gujarat-cadre IPS officer, was elevated to the position of No 2 at the CBI by a selection committee headed by Central Vigilance Commission (CVC). As he is said to be close to BJP president Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he was dubbed by Congress chief Rahul Gandhi as PM Modi’s “blue-eyed” boy, he also served as the Commissioner of Police in Vadodara and Surat, handled many high-profile cases during his tenure.

He enquired the Godhra train fire of February 2002 that led to riots in the state. As an officer on deputation in Bihar, Asthana enquired the fodder scam and arrested RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav. As the additional director at CBI, he enquired the Vijay Mallya bank fraud case and AgustaWestland chopper scam. He was also enquiring the INX Media case that involves former finance minister P Chidambaram.

RAFALE IS ROOTED DEEP

In a most recent step on 24 October Centre, via the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) ejected CBI Director Alok Verma and Special Director Rakesh Asthana by sending both on a temporary leave, while appointing Joint Director Nageshwar Rao the interim head.

This decision comes amidst reports of Alok Verma preparing to initiate an introductory inquiry into the alleged Rafale scam, reacting on a complaint filed by Arun Shourie, Prashant Bhushan, and Yashwant Sinha.

Now, as per the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act, the appointment and suspension of the CBI director can be solely done by a panel consisting of the Prime Minister, the CJI and the leader of Opposition. And consequently, the decision to suspend Verma could only be taken by the special committee, and not by the DoPT.

And further, Section 4B of the DSPE Act specifically states two-year tenure for the CBI director and also notes that a CBI director cannot be transferred without the prior consent of the appointing committee.

Therefore why government expected opposition to be shut as soon as this came in front Congress smelt a rat behind the removal of CBI director and claimed that this all was done to stop him from investigating the Rafale deal for 36 fighter jets from France.

CBI Chief Alok Verma was collecting documents relating to the Rafale scam. He was forcibly sent on leave. The Prime Minister’s message is very clear that whoever comes near Rafale (issue) will be removed, wiped out.” –Rahul Gandhi

On these grounds, Verma claimed that the Centre had bypassed established procedures and had, therefore “violated the independence of the CBI.” And challenged the governments to leave the order in Supreme Court. He further alleged that Asthana had “stymied” decisions that “were crucial to the progress of certain investigations.” And also have misused his position to stall investigations in several sensitive cases.

Centre released a statement, mentioning that after much consideration the leave order was directed, and in the “interest of equality, fair play and principles of natural justice under the Section 4(2) of the DSPE Act.”

CBI v/s GOVERNMENT

As a result of Verma’s removal as CBI Director, the reasoning that the government gave was that he didn’t cooperate with the CVC in inquiry against him. Questions are continuously being asked on Alok Verma being sent on leave by the government, that whether he was illegally removed from the post. Lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan stated that the PM had no authority to send the CBI director on leave as his tenure was protected.

The tenure of the CBI director was not fixed before 1997 and in any manner, they could be removed by the government. But the Apex Court in the Vineet Narain judgment fixed the tenure for the CBI director of two years to allow the officer to work with independence.

Then what was such an urgency that Verma had to be sent on leave in midnight? Here government digs their own grave because directly the question arises that you yourself recruited him for the post and now you yourself removed him, revealing the fear of being disclosed through what he was finding and he was enquiring Rafale. When government itself can’t trust their own decision then how they expect its citizens to keep faith in them?

Looking at their actions it portrays that the Modi government has adopted a presumptuous ‘do as you may’ attitude, replacing norms and bending rules to seemingly benefit its own agenda.

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