Congress Sees Rafale Probe Link In Midnight Move Against CBI Chief

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CBI Director Alok Verma has challenged the centre's action in the Supreme Court.

New Delhi:

The Congress today accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of hatching a "nefarious conspiracy" along with Central Vigilance Commissioner KV Chowdhary and top officials from the Department of Personnel and Training to divest CBI Director Alok Verma of his powers before he could launch an investigation into the multi-crore Rafale fighter jet deal.

A similar allegation was also made the same day by lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan, who had earlier submitted a written complaint alleging corruption in the defence deal to the CBI chief along with former BJP minister Yashwant Singh and senior journalist Arun Shourie. The BJP was reportedly unhappy with the development.

"The midnight intrigue, sinister plot and nefarious conspiracy of a collusive subterfuge between the Modi government and the Central Vigilance Commission have now been unravelled," Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala said at a press conference here, providing details of the alleged conspiracy.

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Mr Surjewala alleged that that although the CVC chief was supposed to leave for Denmark on October 23, he stayed back just to hold the meeting that resulted in the order against Mr Verma. Then, around 11 pm on Tuesday, CBI Joint Director M Nageswar Rao was asked to reach the agency headquarters in anticipation of Mr Chowdhary's order, he added.

The Congress leader said that the Delhi Police Commissioner informed his subordinates about the operation around 11.30 pm. "They were asked to reach the Khan Market area. And then, at midnight, the Commissioner told his team that the Delhi Police will take over the CBI headquarters," Mr Surjewala alleged, adding that Mr Verma was served the order at his residence around 2.30 am.

Mr Bhushan, also alleging a conspiracy in the surprise move against Mr Verma, welcomed the Supreme Court order ordering that the probe be completed in two weeks. "Verma had become independent because he had a fixed two-year tenure. The government turned nervous when the CBI Director met us, and received a complaint in connection with the Rafale deal," the lawyer said, wondering why the centre was not ordering a probe or audit into the aircraft deal.

"It is good that the Supreme Court has intervened in the matter, and the inquiry against Verma will be conducted under the supervision of retired Supreme Court judge AK Patnaik within 14 days," he said.

Mr Bhushan maintained that the Rafale deal was the biggest "treachery" witnessed in the country in recent times. "The deal was announced in violation of mandatory procedures, such as obtaining service qualitative requirements from the Indian Air Force service headquarters," he said, adding that the government did not even place the matter before the categorisation committee or obtain the acceptance of necessity from the Defence Acquisition Council.

According to Mr Bhushan, the new deal hinged on buying 36 aircraft in "fly-away condition" without any transfer of technology.

(With inputs from PTI, IANS and ANI)

Disclaimer: NDTV has been sued for 10,000 crores by Anil Ambani's Reliance Group for its coverage of the Rafale deal.

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