New Delhi: Stepping up its attack on the government for divesting CBI Director Alok Verma of his charge, the Congress on Thursday hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying the decision was a grave “violation” of Supreme Court orders and the Constitution.
Leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, who is a member of the collegium to select the CBI chief along with Prime Minister and Chief Justice of India, wrote a letter to Modi in this regard apprising him of his party’s reservations that the CBI Director cannot be “removed” as he has a fixed tenure and to do so without approval of the committee which selected him was illegal.
“The state of disarray and arbitrariness that has characterised the functioning of key institutions such as the CVC, the CBI and above all your own office is unprecedented in our nation’s history,” Kharge said in his letter.
He said the actions taken in the early hours of October 24 in transferring the Director and his entire team, amounted to a “grave violation of the law, the Supreme Court’s clear directions on the subject and the constitution of India”.
“It is of the utmost surprise that following their reported meeting with you, both the officers have been sent on leave,” the letter read.
He said the premier investigating agency came directly under the Prime Minister but he has failed to act in time.
“There are no visible grounds to transfer the Director. The only plausible explanation for the desperate and hasty move is an attempt to scuttle the ongoing investigations into the Special Direcor Rakesh Asthana’s case and other cases that might cause significant embarrassment to the government.
“The explanation acquires more relevance when one considers that almost the entire team working under the Director has been transferred on specious reasons of ‘public interest’,” he said.
“The Director cannot be removed as he has fixed tenure and it is illegal to do so without approval of the committee which selected him. No one, neither you (Prime Minister) nor the CVC enjoy the requisite authority to interfere with the terms of service vested in the Director,” Kharge wrote.
He said the decision taken by the CVC was a serious “breach of the law” and also constitute a serious illegal, and unwanted intrusion by the PM and other government functionaries.
The Congress also questioned the appointment of M. Nageshwara Rao, a Joint Director, to look after the duties and functions of CBI Director.
Addressing a press conference, senior lawyer and Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi said, “Why was an Additional-Director rank the only chosen one and why was the hierarchy bypassed in this midnight appointment?”
Criticising the government for appointing Rao as CBI interim Director, Singhvi said, “Rao was the same person who recently met Tamil Nadu’s Deputy Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam, when CBI was investigating the Gutkha scam.”
He said that another set of allegations were levelled against Rao in 2016 when he was accused of misappropriating nearly Rs 3 crore in the purchase of uniform for fire officials in the state, when he was chief of fire service directorate in Bhubaneshwar.
The Congress leader also raised questions on the tearing hurry to remove Verma without the approval of the Selection Committee and by violating the Supreme Court judgement.
“Why was an interim chief appointed at 2:00 a.m.? Does it not tantamount to complete trashing and slithering of Constitutional norms, law and all semblance of political morality and accountability?” he asked.