In another blow to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Justice AK Patnaik, who was assigned by the Supreme Court to supervise the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) probe against former CBI director Alok Verma, has asserted that there was no evidence of corruption against Verma.
In an interview to The Indian Express, Patnaik said the CVC’s opinion cannot be taken as the last word in the matter. Being extremely critical of the way the PM Modi-led selection panel removed Verma without giving him a chance to explain, Verma said that natural justice was scuttled. He has called the panel’s decision ‘very, very hasty’.
“We are dealing with an institution here. They should have applied their mind thoroughly, especially as a Supreme Court judge was there,” pointed out Patnaik.
Of the three members of the selection panel, Prime Minister Modi and Justice AK Sikri were against Verma continuing as the CBI chief. The third member Mallikarjun Kharge, Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha, contested the CVC report and filed a dissent note. In a six-page note, Kharge detailed four reasons for restoring full authority to Alok Verma. Kharge argued that the CVC does not have an air-tight case to prove Verma’s misconduct and that the committee should not arrive at a conclusion without hearing Verma.
Patnaik said, “There was no evidence against Verma regarding corruption. The entire enquiry was held on (CBI special director Rakesh) Asthana’s complaint. I have said in my report that none of the findings in the CVC’s report are mine,” reported The Indian Express.
In a letter to Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, Patnaik stated, “The CVC forwarded to me a statement dated November 9, 2018, purportedly signed by Shri Rakesh Asthana. I may clarify that this statement purportedly signed by Shri Rakesh Asthana was not made in my presence”.
The former Supreme Court judge said he ensured that the principles of natural justice were followed once the CVC probe reached him. Stressing and highlighting that his was a supervisory role, Patnaik said he had confirmed Verma’s claim in his letter on Friday to the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) that the findings of the CVC report were not his.
In a letter to the Secretary (Personnel), Alok Verma had written that Patnaik had concluded that the findings and conclusions of the report are not his.
“I ensured I was present during the recording of Sana’s (businessman Sathish Babu Sana from whom Verma was said to have taken a bribe) evidence. I made sure that the principles of natural justice were applied. Nothing else. Verma also made his verbal arguments while I was present. He made his arguments before the CVC. Only Verma and Sana were examined in my presence. The enquiry was completed in 14 days as stipulated. Thereafter, it was for the Supreme Court to decide. The report was 50 pages but there were 1,000 pages of annexures,” said Patnaik.
On January 8, 2019, the Supreme Court had set aside the October 23, 2018 order of the CVC and Union government divesting CBI director Alok Verma of his powers and functions because it went against the “legislative intent” to “ensure complete insulation” of the CBI director “from all kinds of extraneous influences”.