Seventy-nine days after the Government sent him on forced leave and barely 48 hours after he was reinstated by the Supreme Court as Director, Central Bureau of Investigation, the high powered selection panel, which met for the second time in two days on Thursday, decided to remove him from office. Verma is due to retire on January 31.
The marathon meeting of the committee comprising Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Justice A K Sikri deputising for the Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, lasted for nearly three hours and ended a little before 7 pm.
The haste with which the meeting of the panel was called, despite the Supreme Court having allowed the Government a week’s time, had made the Government’s intention clear. Kharge had demanded that the committee be given a copy of the CVC’ s report on corruption charges against Verma and the CBI Director be given an opportunity to respond.
He had also asked that verma be compensated for the 77 days of forced leave and his tenure be extended by as many days. He had called for an inquiry on the developments that led to the midnight coup on October 23 last year when Verma was sent packing and a Joint Director then, Nageshwar Rao, was installed by the Government as interim director at the CBI, which directly reports to the DoPT at PMO.
Although widely anticipated, the decision to remove Verma became a certainty earlier on Thursday when Congress President Rahul Gandhi wondered aloud in a tweet why the Government was in a tearing hurry to get rid of Verma as CBI Director. His explanation was that the Government did not want Verma to order a PE ( Preliminary Enquiry) into the Rafale deal and initiate an investigation ahead of the general election.
While details of the meetings held on Wednesday and Thursday were still not available at the time of reporting, the decision means that the Prime Minister and Mr Justice Sikri weighed in favour of removing Verma, leaving Kharge in a minority.
The removal unfortunately would do nothing to end the turf war in the premier investigating agency. While Verma reversed the transfers effected by the interim director, reports filtering in suggest that the Government has asked Nageshwar Rao again to step in and function as CBI Director.
Will Verma again move the court ? And will details of the slugfest between Verma and Special Director Rakesh Asthana tumble out?