CBI director Alok Verma approached Supreme Court seeking a stay on the government's order
Today's Supreme Court hearing on the controversy surrounding the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) remained silent on one key issue – agency director Alok Verma's request that the union government's decision to send him on leave be stayed.
Neither the government's decision to send Mr Verma on forced leave, nor its appointment of M Nageswar Rao as interim CBI chief, came up during the brief hearing.
The hearing before a bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices SK Kaul and KM Joseph began with senior advocate Fali S Nariman, appearing for Mr Verma, opening the arguments.
Mr Nariman started his arguments by referring to the Supreme 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.
He argued that CBI Director is appointed for a fixed tenure of two years by a committee comprising the Prime Minister, leader of opposition and the chief justice of India.
"The question is whether the tenure could be breached at any time?" he told the bench and said that consent of the committee was needed for transferring the CBI Director.
However, before the stay on the government's order could be discussed, Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi told Attorney General KK Venugopal, "The only thing which we need to look is what interim order to pass. Without wasting time, we will tell you what we have in our mind.
The bench ordered that the Central Vigilance Commission's inquiry on the charges against Mr Verma should be completed within 10 days and should be conducted under the supervision of a retired Supreme Court judge, Justice AK Patnaik. Until then, Mr Rao, the interim director, would not have the power to take any policy decision.
It told the Centre and CBI to place before it in a sealed cover the list of decisions taken by Mr Rao from October 23 till today.
Mr Verma approached the Supreme Court on Wednesday after the centre sent him and special director Rakesh Asthana on leave at 2 am on Tuesday night and appointed M Nageswar Rao as the interim CBI chief. Mr Verma had initiated an inquiry against Mr Asthana, accusing him of taking a bribe from a businessman being investigated by the agency. Mr Asthana has accused Mr Verma of taking a bribe from the same businessman.