New Delhi: In an unprecedented shake-up in the CBI’s 55-year-history, both its director Alok Verma and special director Rakesh Asthana were stripped of their powers and sent on leave in a dramatic overnight action by the government after their worsening feud sparked a serious crisis in the country’s premier probe agency.
As the government went into damage control mode in a bid to defuse the crisis, the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on late Tuesday night named joint director M. Nageswar Rao, a 1986-batch Odisha cadre IPS officer, as interim director with “immediate effect”.
Immediately after taking charge around midnight, Mr Rao ordered transfers of a dozen officers with one of them being sent to Port Blair and also constituted a fresh team to probe bribery and extortion charges against Mr Asthana. Most of the officers shifted were part of the probe teams against Asthana, a Gujarat cadre IPS officer, according to sources.
A government order divested Mr Verma and Mr Asthana of their powers and they were sent on leave. But Mr Verma knocked on the doors of the Supreme Court on Wednesday challenging the government’s decision after which it agreed to hear his plea on Friday. Targeting the Centre, Mr Verma contended that divesting him of his powers “overnight: amounts to interference in the independence of the agency.
He said as the CBI is expected to function completely independently and autonomously, there are bound to be occasions when certain investigations into high functionaries do not take the direction that may be desirable to the government.
Mr Verma also contended that the Centre and the CVC’s move was “patently illegal” and such interference “erodes” the independence and autonomy of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
The BJP later said Congress president Rahul Gandhi indulged in “petty politics” by taking sides in the row involving top CBI officers while Prime Minister Narendra Modi demonstrated statesmanship by acting against them to protect the agency’s institutional integrity....