Two days after Alok Kumar Verma was removed from the post of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Director, two top judges related to the investigation against Verma have reportedly given contrary views.
Serving Supreme Court judge Justice AK Sikri, representative of the Chief Justice of India in high power selection panel, reportedly claimed there were “prima facie findings of guilt” on some serious allegations against Verma contrary to retired SC judge Justice AK Patnaik’s claims that there were “no evidence of corruption”.
In the meantime, Senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge termed as a ‘mistake’ the removal of Verma as CBI head and accused the government of “destroying” the premier investigating the agency.
But both the judges serving and retired reportedly refuted Kharge’s claims that Verma was not getting proper hearing. Media reports stated that Justice Patnaik said, “Verma had access to all the documents and got a personal hearing.”
The media report also stated that Justice Patnaik claimed there was no evidence against Verma regarding corruption and the entire enquiry was held on CBI Special Director Rakesh Asthana’s complaint.
He reportedly also claimed that none of the findings in the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) report were his. He also said that what the CVC says cannot be the final word.
However, as per Justice Markandey Katju, a former Supreme Court judge, Justice Sikri believed there were prima facie findings of guilt on some serious allegations against Verma and that his continuation as the Director of CBI had become untenable.
This is according to Justice Katju, Justice Sikri’s one-time colleague when Justice Katju was the chief justice of the Delhi High Court .
Katju claimed that he called up Justice Sikri and asked him about what went on during the meeting of a three-member panel that decided to remove Verma as CBI chief.
As per Katju, Justice Sikri has conveyed to him that the CVC had recorded prima facie findings of guilt on some serious charges against Verma on the material before it.
“In view of these serious prima facie findings of guilt, and after perusing the material on which they were based, Justice Sikri was of the opinion that until the matter was fully investigated and a final decision given about the guilt or innocence of Verma he should not remain on the post of Director, CBI but should be shifted to another post equivalent in rank,” Katju stated.
In the meantime, Kharge, who is a member of the Selection Committee headed by the Prime Minister which shunted out Verma from CBI, said he was not given a chance to present his side.
Kharge had submitted a dissent note before the committee questioning the CVC findings against Verma. Interestingly, Kharge had expressed his opposition even when the selection committee decided to appoint Verma as CBI Chief two years ago.
“The Modi government does not hold any moral authority. They are doing wrong and destroying the institution,” Kharge said.
“The government has again done a mistake. Earlier they did a mistake by removing the (CBI) Director without even calling a meeting.
Even after calling the meeting, the papers that were supposed to be kept in front of the committee were not presented. They took action only on the basis of the CVC report.
I asked in the committee why Patnaik’s report was not there. I asked for Alok Verma’s statement on the matter. Then it came forward that everything is there in the CVC report,” said Kharge, the leader of the Congress party in Lok Sabha.
He added, “Before the meeting, I read the CVC report. I raised concerns over issues in that, but despite all that the process of removing him was carried forward.
We are not in favour of anybody. We want that we should follow the rules made by us. There is no question of defending Alok Verma.
The question is on what procedures he was appointed and on what procedures he was removed. You don’t remove anybody only on the basis of somebody’s allegation. You need to decide only after hearing others too.”
Kharge also questioned the Centre over M Nageshwar Rao’s appointment as interim director. “They have done another mistake. They didn’t ask the committee before appointing Nageshwar Rao as interim Director. He is not even eligible. It’s okay if you want your man to be placed in the office. These things were not put in front of Sikri and me. I don’t need to defend any person. I only defend judiciary, rules as per the Delhi Special Police Act.”
But as per the CVC, there are evidences of influencing of investigation in the Moin Qureshi case and also evidence of Verma taking a bribe of Rs 2 crore.
The CVC was of the view that Verma’s conduct in the case was “suspicious,” and there was a “prima facie case” against him. The CVC also felt that the “entire truth will come out if a criminal investigation is ordered.”