CBI crisis: Verma approaches SC; Bhushan links removal to Rafale probe

CBI headquarters in New Delhi | PTI CBI headquarters in New Delhi | PTI

Hours after he was divested of charge as CBI director, Alok Verma on Wednesday filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging the Narendra Modi government's order. According to law, the CBI director is appointed for a fixed tenure of two years.

The Modi government had ordered both Verma and his deputy, Special Director Rakesh Asthana, to go on leave after days of squabbling in the country's premier investigation agency. Raids were continuing at the offices of Verma and Asthana at the CBI headquarters at midday on Wednesday. Reports claim officers working with Verma have also been ordered to go on leave.

Advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan,who appeared for Verma, told the Supreme Court on Wednesday that the Modi government's order on Verma and Asthana would compromise the CBI's investigation into many sensitive cases. The Supreme Court is expected to take up Verma's petition challenging the order on Friday; some media reports claimed a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court would hear the plea of the CBI chief.

Meanwhile, lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan on Wednesday alleged the decision to “remove” Verma from the post of CBI director was linked to the possibility of him opening an investigation into the contentious Rafale fighter deal. Earlier this month, Bhushan and former BJP leader Arun Shourie met Verma and submitted a complaint on the Rafale deal, seeking a CBI probe into alleged corruption.

The unprecedented intervention of the Central government in the CBI has, not surprisingly, evoked a furious response from the opposition parties. The Congress tweeted, “Why has the govt. removed CBI Director Alok Verma of his charge & sealed his offices? Who are they protecting & what are they hiding?”

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also tweeted on the issue, asking, “Under which law did the Modi govt get the authority to initiate action against the chief of an investigating agency appointed as per the Lokpal Act?” Kejriwal and the Aam Aadmi Party also referred to the 2016 controversy of the Modi government “taking control” of the anti-corruption bureau in Delhi.