Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying the appointment of M Nageswara Rao as Interim Director of the CBI is ‘illegal’ and contending that the government seemed to be ‘scared’ of having the premier investigative agency headed by an ‘independent’ chief.
Kharge, who is a member of the Selection Committee headed by the Prime Minister that decides on appointment of a CBI Director, has demanded that the government ‘come clean’ by releasing the CVC report and the report of retired Supreme Court Judge Justice A K Patnaik who was asked by the Supreme Court to monitor the CVC’s inquiry into the allegations against ousted CBI chief Alok Verma.
In the letter sent yesterday, he also demanded the release of the minutes of the meeting of the Selection Committee held on January 10 which decided to transfer Verma from the post of CBI Director to Director General of Fire Services ‘so that the public can draw its own conclusion in his matter.’
The January 10 meeting was attended by the Prime Minister, Kharge and Supreme Court Judge Justice A K Sikri, who was representing the Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi.
Kharge said the government seemed ‘to be worried about something and in a tearing hurry to dispose a man from his office, an irrational decision was taken’ to transfer Verma as DG Fire Services ‘even after his superannuation.’
“The action of this government in handling the appointments in CBI have been consistently against the letter and spirit of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act,” wrote the Leader of Opposition Congress in the Lok Sabha.
“The actions of the government in the matter indicate that it is scared of having the CBI headed by an independent Director,” Kharge said.
He asked the government to ‘establish its bonafide in fighting corruption’ and ensure the ‘integrity of the premier investigative agency’ by convening a meeting of the Selection Committee immediately to appoint a Director without any further delay.
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“Any delay would further erode the faith the public has placed in this institution and the credibility of the institution,” he added.
Referring to the appointment of Rao as an interim Director of the CBI, he said the post does not ‘legally exist’ as per the DSPE Act and the decision was taken ‘unilaterally’ by the government without consulting the Selection Committee ‘once again’.
“The government seemed to have made up its mind on appointing an interim Director and hence this was never placed before the Selection Committee in the 10th January meeting. The appointment of an interim Director is illegal and against Section 4A(1) and 4A(3) of the DSPE Act,” Kharge contended.
Talking about Verma’s ouster, Kharge wrote, “I am sure you are aware that new facts have emerged regarding the CVC report that was solely relied upon by your goodself in the meeting held on 10th January to take action against the then CBI Director.”
The Congress leader, who had given his dissent note at the January 10 meeting, said, “despite my best efforts to convince the members of the committee 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’s enquiry.”
Kharge noted that the media has ‘widely reported’ that Justice Patnaik has said ‘there was no evidence of corruption against Verma’ and ‘what the CVC says cannot be the final word’ and termed the action of the committee ‘very very hasty’.
“Such (a) huge embarrassment could have been avoided if the Committee had decided to independently examine the report of the CVC, the report of Justice Patnaik, the submission of Shri Alok Verma in his defence and drawn its own conclusions before reaching a decision,” the letter read.
Kharge 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 that report and applying its own mind.’
He said the government ‘seems to be worried about something and in a tearing hurry to dispose a man from his office, an irrational decision was taken to transfer Shri Alok Verma as DG Fire Services even after his superannuation.”
Kharge, who had given his dissent note even when Verma was appointed as CBI Director in January 2017, recalled that he had brought to the attention of the Committee at that time that the appointment of Verma ‘did not completely satisfy the conditions under Section 4A(2) of the DSPE Act. However, the same was not considered.’
He also referred to the October 23, 2018 action of the government to send Verma on leave and said it was done in violation of Section 4B(2) of the DSPE Act “by taking a decision without involving the Committee that appointed him and was struck down by the courts.”
The removal of Verma on January 10 was made ‘without following either due process of law or the principles of natural justice,’ Kharge argued.
“In each of the above instance, my advice tendered on behalf of the Opposition has been consistently sidelined by the government,” he said.
(With ANI inputs)