Centre defends divesting Verma of his charge, says it is appointing authority

The Centre on Thursday defended its decision to divest CBI Director Alok Verma of his charge, saying the action was necessary to restore the confidence of people in the investigating agency that was getting dented over trading of graft charges between the top two — Verma and Special Director Rakesh Asthana.
The Central government also told the bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice K.M. Joseph that the Centre being the appointing authority of CBI Director was also empowered to intervene in such situation and there was no need to go back to the selection committee.
The selection committee for the appointment of CBI Director comprises the Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition or leader of the single-largest party in the Lok Sabha and the Chief Justice of India.
Defending the government interventions, Attorney General K.K. Venugopal said it acted in “larger public interest” so that the “CBI does not lose its credibility” and the government was concerned because of adverse publicity” as the top two were at “loggerheads”.
The argument of Alok Verma and others that the government could not have acted on its own and should have gone back to the selection panel for divesting him of his charge, the Attorney General sought to draw a distinction between the selection panel and the appointing authority, suggesting that the role of selection committee ends with the recommendation of the Director.
Chief Justice Gogoi asked the Attorney General how could government have acted on the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC)’s recommendation which were based on its power to monitor the premier investigating agency CBI in corruption cases.
As the Attorney General referred to the complaint against Verma by Special Director Asthana to the Cabinet Secretary, Justice Joseph asked: “Had the government and the Cabinet Secretary applied their minds on the allegations against Verma before taking a call?
“The Central government is not concerned about A or B,” AG Venugopal replied apparently to show its neutrality in the matter.
As arguments remained inclusive and would resume on December 5, there were indications that the hearing could last long as Chief Justice Gogoi said: “If it becomes necessary for us to go through the CVC report, then we might have to defer the hearing (on December 5) to allow all parties to respond on the report.”
The Attorney General told the court that if it decides to look at the CVC report, then it should not interfere with October 23 order divesting Verma of his charge, giving it to M. Nageswara Rao and sending both Verma and Asthana on forced leave.
At the outset of the hearing on Thursday, Chief Justice Gogoi asked different counsels to confine their arguments to the question of law whether it was incumbent upon the government to have gone back to the selection committee even for divesting CBI Director Verma of his charge.
Nariman, along with senior counsel Dushyant Dave, Kapil Sibal and Rajeev Dhavan asserted that the government should have taken prior consent of the selection panel before transferring Verma and given his charge of Acting Director M. Nageswara Rao and cited several judgments of the top court to buttress their point.

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