CBI Director Alok Verma reinstated with riders; Can’t take major policy decisions till further orders

Supreme Court: Setting aside the Central Government and Central Vigilance Committee’s (CVC) October 23, 2018 order divesting CBI Director Alok Verma of his charge, the 3-judge bench of Ranjan Gogoi, CJ and SK Kaul and KM Joseph, JJ ordered reinstatement of Alok Verma with riders. The Court made it explicit that Alok Verma’s role as the Director, CBI during the interregnum and in terms of this order will be confined only to the exercise of the ongoing routine functions without any fresh initiative, having no major policy or institutional implications.

The Court said that the elaborate directions given by the Court in Vineet Narain v. Union of India, (1998) 1 SCC 226; the amendments made to the provisions of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946 and the enactment of the Central Vigilance Commission Act, 2003 cannot be bypassed as the provisions and the judgement ensure the insulation of the CBI director from all external interference if the CBI has to live up to the role and expectations of the legislature and enjoy public confidence to the fullest measure. The Court said:

“the clear legislative intent in bringing the aforesaid provisions to the statute book are for the purpose of ensuring complete insulation of the office of the Director, CBI from all kinds   of   extraneous   influences,   as   may   be,   as   well   as   for upholding the integrity and independence of the institution of the CBI as a whole.”

Interpreting the words “transferred   except   with   the   previous   consent   of   the Committee” mentioned in Section 4B(2) of the DSPE Act, the Court said:

“If the word “transferred” has to be understood in its ordinary parlance and limited to a change from one post to another, as the word would normally convey and on that basis the requirement of “previous   consent   of   the   Committee” is understood to be only in such cases, i.e. purely of transfer, such an   interpretation   would   be   self­defeating   and   would   clearly negate the legislative intent.  In such an event it will be free for the State Authority to effectively disengage the Director, CBI from functioning by adopting various modes, known and unknown, which may not amount to transfer but would still have the same effect as a transfer from one post to another, namely, cessation of exercise of powers and functions of the earlier post.   This is clearly not what the legislature could have intended.”

The Court hence, set aside the 3 impugned orders in question and directed that the matter be considered by the Committee under Section 4A(1) of the DSPE Act, 1946 which may be so done at the earliest and, in any case, within a week from the date of this order. Till then reinstated CBI director Alok Verma will cease and desist from taking any major policy decisions.

The aforementioned impugned orders dated October 23, 2018 came after there arose a dispute between Alok Verma and the CBI Special Director Rakesh Asthana who accused each other of corruption and the feud became public.[Alok Verma v. Union of India, WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO.1309 OF 2018, decided on 04.01.2019]

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