New Delhi: Opposition parties Wednesday launched a blistering attack against the government over CBI Director Alok Verma's removal with the Congress alleging that the decision was taken due to 'Rafale-o-phobia' as he was collecting documents relating to the Rafale jet deal.
However, the government strongly defended its decision, saying it was “absolutely essential” to maintain the CBI's institutional integrity. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley asserted the government's decision to send Verma and his deputy Rakesh Asthana was based on recommendations by the Central Vigilance Commissioner.
A late-night order on Tuesday from the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi sent Verma and Asthana, who were at loggerheads, on leave. Jaitley dismissed as “rubbish” the allegations by the Opposition that Verma was removed because he was collecting documents on the Rafale fighter jet deal. “I regard this charge as rubbish. The fact that opposition parties are saying we know what agency was going to do next itself casts a doubt on the fairness process. I don't believe what they are saying is true, but if they did have access to what was going on in the mind a person that itself demolishes the integrity of the person they are trying to support,” he said.
Besides sending Verma and Asthana on leave, the government also transferred several CBI officials and appointed M Nageswar Rao as the interim chief of the agency.
Congress leader Abhishek Singhvi claimed the government removed Verma to control the premier agency and avoid the day of reckoning arising from “Rafale-o-phobia”.
“Modi government buries the ‘last nail’ into the independence of CBI. Systematic dismantling and denigrating of CBI is now complete. Once a premier investigating agency, PM ensures that CBI's integrity, credibility and reliability is buried and dead,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said.