CBI vs CBI: Odisha Congress joins nationwide protests against Centre

Alok Verma

Indian opposition leader and Congress President, Rahul Gandhi, on Friday courted arrest along with top party leaders during a massive protest in New Delhi against the government's move to send country's Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) chief Alok Verma on leave.

Retired judge A K Patnaik, who will supervise the CVC probe against CBI Director Alok Verma, was once a member of a constitution bench that is credited with giving new wings to the "caged parrot" by scrapping the need for the agency to take the government's permission for acting against senior officers. Nageswara Rao from taking any policy or major decision and ordered him to perform only routine tasks that are essential to keep the CBI functioning. Rao was further directed to submit all the decisions, taken by him ever since his appointment to it in a sealed cover.

Nariman started his arguments by referring to the apex court's 1997 Vineet Narain judgement, which relates to probe of allegations of corruption against high-ranking public officials in India, the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) Act 2003 and amendments in the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act.

Gandhi was leading a noisy protest over the government's action in CBI. The supervision is a "one-time exception felt necessary in the peculiar facts of the case and should not be understood to be casting any reflection on any authority of the government", the court said. Not only that the Centre has also diluted the powers of Enforcement Directorate and RBI. The CVC has also said that for the time being, no monitoring by anyone else should be allowed.

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By Friday morning, Asthana also filed a petition against the government order sending him on leave.

The court's order came as another blow to the BJP government at the Centre. Rohatgi said that Asthana's plea could be listed for hearing on October 29. Verma states in the petition that Rakesh Asthana had "stymied" several decisions which were crucial to the investigation of these cases.

The bench said that at this stage, the CVC has to see whether there was any prima facie ground to proceed in the matter and for this, it does not have to go through thousands of pages of documents for this.

It also said that the high-powered committee comprising the Prime Minister, leader of the opposition and Chief Justice of India was not consulted by the Centre before appointing Rao as the interim director. Verma had claimed that the CBI's autonomy was being compromised as "certain investigations into high functionaries do not take the direction that may be desirable to the government".

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