Amid corruption allegations and counter-allegations by CBI chief Alok Verma and his deputy Rakesh Asthana, the duo have been sent on leave along with their trusted officers. The country's top investigating agency will now have M Nageshwar Rao as the interim director.
The decision was taken following a recommendation by the country's top vigilance officer, Chief Vigilance Commissioner KV Chowdary that the CBI's warring top two be sent on "compulsory wait", stripped of all responsibilities.
Sources say Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had summoned both Alok Verma and Rakesh Asthana over the crisis, agreed with the recommendation.
The late-night development, however, was termed as "illegal", a "shoddy cover-up" and "panic move" by opposition parties.
The Congress posted on Twitter, "While the PMO is busy picking sides in the CBI battle, the only losers are the people of India – having lost another institution to the deplorable autocratic antics of the BJP govt."
In a series of tweets, senior Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala called it a "systematic dismantling of CBI". "Modi Govt buries the 'last nail' into the independence of CBI. Systematic dismantling & denigrating of CBI is now complete. Once a premier investigating agency, PM ensures that CBI's integrity, credibility & reliability is 'buried & dead'," he said.
PM Modi has demonstrated the true colour of his infamous 'Modi Made Gujarat Model' by this cloak-and-dagger mugging of CBI.
Has the CBI Director been sacked for his keenness to probe the layers of corruption in Rafale Scam? Isn't the rest a shoddy cover up?
Let PM answer! pic.twitter.com/80ckyFiOJX
– Randeep Singh Surjewala (@rssurjewala) October 24, 2018
"The illegal removal of CBI Chief by Modi government to protect their own handpicked officer, against whom serious charges of corruption are being investigated, points to attempts at a serious cover-up to protect his direct links to the BJP's top political leadership," tweeted CPI (M) leader Sitaram Yechury.
To ensure that the CBI is not a "caged parrot", Supreme Court had granted protection to the Chief from govt's whims and fancies by giving him a two-year tenure. What is Modi govt trying to hide by its panic move? #BJPCorruption
– Sitaram Yechury (@SitaramYechury) October 24, 2018
The government has also been accused of "protecting" fugitives like Nirav Modi, Vijay Mallya and going after people who act against the corrupt.
You are with Mallya, Nirav, Choksi, Ambani, Asthana & so on
You are against Pradeep Sharma, Sanjiv Bhatt & now Alok Verma!
Dear @narendramodi, you have to inform the nation that why you are always with corrupt and vindictive towards people who act against corrupt? #CBIBossSacked
– Arun Shourie (@FeignShourie) October 24, 2018
Breaking! As feared&suspected, the govt has removed the Director CBI from his charge, because he was pursuing corrupt Spl Director Rakesh Asthana who was foisted on CBI by PMO despite his being investigated by the CBI itself in corruption cases.Totally illegal. Will be Challenged pic.twitter.com/KyZgEUBpyF
– Prashant Bhushan (@pbhushan1) October 24, 2018