CBI chief Alok Verma was removed by a high-level committee headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday just two days after his conditional reinstatement by the Supreme Court.
Besides PM Modi, the panel of three included the Congress’s Mallikarjun Kharge and Supreme Court judge, Justice AK Sikri – nominated by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi who dropped out since he was on the bench that reinstated Mr Verma.
As the panel based its decision on a report of the Central Vigilance Commission on allegations against Mr Verma, Mr Kharge put up a dissent note that flagged how the main allegations were unsubstantiated.
The note included a summary of the vigilance report, which reveals that the main allegation of bribery – raised by Mr Verma’s deputy Rakesh Asthana – is not substantiated. “No evidence of payment of bribe; further investigation required for verifying circumstantial evidence,” said the report on the charge that Mr Verma took Rs. 2 crore from a businessman being investigated by the CBI.
On allegations of “not taking action on certain intelligence inputs” the report said: “Allegation not substantiated”. On the charge of “illegal gratification in ongoing preliminary enquiry against land acquisition in Haryana”, the findings were: “Allegation not substantiated, further inquiry will be required.”
Of the 10 allegations against Mr Verma, three were substantiated, while in six cases they weren’t. Even the ones that were shown to be substantiated vary in their levels of credibility, according to the vigilance report.
The allegation of exclusion of a suspect from being named as an accused in a First Information Report in the IRCTC case was “substantiated and amounts to serious misconduct and warrants disciplinary and other actions,” the note read.
One allegation – of failure to take action in gold smuggling case at the Delhi airport – was partially substantiated.
But sources say the panel decided that “being the head of a very sensitive organisation, Mr Verma was not functioning with the integrity expected of him.”
“In the IRCTC case, the CVC felt that it can be reasonably concluded that Mr Verma deliberately excluded a name from the FIR, for reasons best known to him,” sources said.
Sources say the panel felt that as a detailed investigation was necessary, including criminal investigation in some cases, Mr Verma cannot continue as CBI chief and should be transferred.
Mr Kharge in his dissent note disagreed with the view. He said an inquiry into the conclusions by the Central Vigilance Commission should continue further but in parallel, he should not be denied his tenure and also should be given back his powers. Mr Kharge even recommended “an additional 77 day extension” to make up for the days he lost on forced leave.
The Congress leader also demanded an inquiry into the events of the night of October 23-24 when Mr Verma was asked to go on leave in a post-midnight government order. He said it would reveal the government’s conspiracy to remove the CBI director.
The Congress alleges that Mr Verma had rattled the government by trying to investigate the Rafale jet deal, which the party says was not above board.
After the high-profile job, Mr Verma will now be Director General, Fire Service. His tenure as CBI chief was to end on January 31.
Mr Verma was accused of corruption by his number 2 Rakesh Asthana in October, when the two officers traded charges in an unprecedented public rift within the country’s premier investigating agency.
As the government sent both on immediate leave and appointed an interim chief in a midnight swoop, Mr Verma approached the Supreme Court.