In events that unfolded, CBI chief Alok Verma was stripped of his powers
Alok Verma will remain CBI Director and his deputy Rakesh Asthana stays Special Director, the investigating agency said a day before the Supreme Court takes up its chief's petition challenging a government decision to take away his powers and send him on forced leave.
In events that unfolded well after midnight on Tuesday, Alok Verma was stripped of his powers and M Nageswar Rao was appointed interim chief. The number two officer, Rakesh Asthana, was also sent on leave.
After the order was put out, Mr Rao drove to the CBI headquarters in Delhi late on Tuesday night, escorted by the police, and took charge around 1.45 am.
The CBI spokesperson said Mr Rao would look after the duties and functions of the Director "in the interim period", till the Chief Vigilance Commission – the main anti-corruption body that has supervision over the CBI – examined allegations traded by Alok Verma and Rakesh Asthana.
The top vigilance body had recommended to Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the CBI's top two be sent on compulsory wait so that the allegations they had thrown at each other could be investigated. "Neither of the two officers, nor any agency under their supervision can investigate charges against them," Chief Vigilance Officer KV Chowdary had said in a report submitted on Tuesday.
PM Modi agreed, and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval reportedly set the process in motion by first getting a late night government order issued. About a dozen officers who were in the director's team and who were investigating charges against Rakesh Asthana, were transferred.
Hours later, the opposition attacked the government and accused it of violating rules. The Congress said the CBI boss has a fixed two-year term and the government cannot remove Alok Verma unless it is cleared by a group that includes the Prime Minister, Chief Justice and Leader of Opposition.
Yesterday, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said that the changes were an "interim measure"… to maintain the fairness of an impartial probe… it was necessary that the two seniormost officers involved must sit out on leave till an impartial investigation is complete".