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Quick take: Justice, low cunning, and politics of deception

By IndianMandarins- 12 Jan 2019
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It is in the nature of politics of low cunning that one controversy triggers another and another triggers another and another...

 

After the selection committee headed by Prime Minister Naren Modi, which includes SC nominee Justice A K Sikri and Lok Sabha's leader of the opposition Mallikarjun Kharge, transferred the reinstated CBI director Alok Verma as DG of Fire Service, Civil Defence & Home Guards, more controversies have erupted.

 

To begin with, the selection committee's decision turned controversial as Kharge filed a dissent note claiming the existence of a “conspiracy at the highest levels of the Government with statutory authorities being found complicit”, which appears to be part of a “pre-meditated decision” to remove Verma.

 

Verma fueled the controversy further by resigned from the new post. In his resignation letter to the DoPT appointment order (issued on 10.01.2019) issued by Secretary C Chandramouli, Verma said, ‘……it may be noted that the undersigned would have already superannuated as on July 31, 2017, and was only serving the Government as Director, CBI till January 31, 2019, as the same was a fixed tenure role. The undersigned is no longer Director, CBI and has already crossed his superannuation age for DG Fire Services, Civil Defence and Home Guards. Accordingly, the undersigned may be deemed as superannuated with effect from today’.

 

Now, Justice A K Patnaik, the retired Supreme Court judge who was asked by the apex court to supervise the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) inquiry that eventually led to the ouster of  Verma, on Friday said there was “no evidence of corruption” against Verma, and “what the CVC says cannot be the final word.”

 

He has described as “very, very hasty”  the decision of the Prime Minister-led selection committee to transfer Verma from the CBI Director’s post over charges of corruption and dereliction of duty two days after he was reinstated by the Supreme Court.

 

Officials believe that even if though Verma's transfer may not seem appropriate, the former CBI Director has played his cards well. If he had challenged the transfer order in the court, it might have proved counter-productive. In that case, the Govt, maintaining its stand on the basis of the selection committee report endorsed 2 to 1, might have revised the order to remove him from the services. That would have made Verma lose his pensionary benefits. So, to avoid this eventuality, Verma opted out of his new assignment.

 

Observers believe that Verma, "in a fit of wounded vanity", had miscalculated while revoking, immediately after being reinstated, the transfer orders issued on 24 October 2018 regarding officers MK Sinha, AK Bassi, SA Gurm and others. The government might have seen the move as a breach of the SC direction to Verma not to take any policy decision till the selection committee examined the corruption charges against him and reached a decision.

 

Despite what happened to Verma, he can now draw a sort of satisfaction from the fact that the Delhi high court on Friday dismissed petitions by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) special director Rakesh Asthana and others seeking quashing of an FIR against them on corruption and bribery charges.

 

The high court verdict dismissing Asthana’s plea comes against the backdrop of the tussle between him and Verma, which became public in October last year.

 

The court, ruling on the petitions by Asthana, deputy superintendent Devender Kumar and alleged middleman Manoj Prasad, also directed the CBI to complete its investigation in the case against Asthana and others within 10 weeks.

 

It also dismissed an allegation by Kumar, who is out on bail after being arrested on charges of bribery, that Verma was acting out of “mala fide” intent in reversing the transfer orders served on CBI officials probing Asthana. It also vacated its interim order granting protection to Asthana against criminal proceedings.

 

Justice Najmi Waziri had on 20 December reserved the judgment on quashing of FIR after hearing submissions of counsel for CBI, the center, Verma, Asthana, joint director A.K. Sharma, and Kumar.

 

CBI had on 15 October registered a case of criminal conspiracy and corruption against Asthana. Asthana had spearheaded probes in AgustaWestland, Bihar fodder case, coal allocation case and the probe against businessman Vijay Mallya.

Meanwhile, interim chief M. Nageshwar Rao on Friday reversed all the transfer orders Verma issued on Wednesday and Thursday.

 

Let's see how the curtain is raised on the whole drama.

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