The central government on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that it was “absolutely essential” for it to step in and act in the tussle between two senior officials of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Arguing before a Supreme Court bench, Attorney General KK Venugopal said that “they were fighting like cats”.
“The government of India was watching with amazement as to what these two officers were doing. They were fighting like cats,” said the Attorney General, adding, “The fight between Alok Verma and Rakesh Asthana was becoming critical and matter of public debate.”
The Centre further clarified before the top court that the action against CBI director Alok Verma “does not amount to transfer”. According to the government, “only his functions have been withdrawn”.
Venugopal further said that government’s action was necessary to “restore public confidence in CBI”. He added that the central agency was “ridiculed”.
“Government’s action was necessary to restore public confidence in CBI and a situation had arisen where centre had to intervene. After careful examination of the issue, Centre was satisfied and took decision that CBI director Alok Verma be divested of his power,” the Attorney General said.
The Attorney General also submitted some newspaper clippings in the court, reportedly about Verma’s questioning by the Central Vigilance Commission. Responding to the same, the apex court asked, “Is there any evidence of CBI director Alok Verma going public about the infighting?”
The apex court had on November 29 said it would first consider whether the government has the power to divest the CBI director of his duties under whatever circumstances or whether the selection committee headed by the Prime Minister should have been approached before moving against Verma on corruption allegations against him.
The court had taken this stand after making it clear that for now it was not going into the allegations and counter-allegations involving Verma and CBI's No 2 officer Asthana, both of whom have been stripped of their powers and sent on leave following their bitter feud.