Narendra Modi govt scared of Rafale scam probe, sent CBI chief on leave: Congress

Congress has accused PM Modi of interfering in the working of the CBI.

Narendra Modi govt scared of Rafale scam probe, sent CBI chief on leave: Congress
File photo of CBI chief Alok Verma and his deputy Rakesh Asthana
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NEW DELHI: Escalating its attack on the Narendra Modi government, the main opposition party  Congress on Wednesday alleged that the Centre sent the CBI chief Alok Verma on leave as it scared of the ongoing probe into the Rafale fighter jet deal scam.

Accusing the Prime Minister Narendra Modi of interfering in the working of the CBI, the Congress alleged that action against Verma was taken since he was keen to probe the Rafale deal, which is the ''biggest defence scam'' of the country.

Terming the government move as ''unconstitutional and illegal'', the Congress party said that the Modi regime has sent all important institutions of the country into the ICU.

''We want to make a direct allegation that the Modi government has sent the CBI chief on leave as it is scared of the ongoing probe into the Rafale fighter jet deal, '' Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi said.

While calling the Centre's move against the CBI director as ''illegal, unethical and unconstitutional,'' Singhvi also questioned the CVC's authority to recommend action against the agency chief who has a fixed tenure of two years and can't be removed before that.

Echoing a similar statement, Singhvi's colleague Manish Tewari said according to the Lokpal Act and the Supreme Court judgement in the Jain Hawala case, the CBI director has a fixed tenure of two years. 

''Government cannot curtail tenure/take interim measures without a meeting of Committee consisting of PM, CJI and Leader of Opposition/single largest party,'' Tewari tweeted.

Earlier, Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala too alleged that the Modi government was afraid of the Opposition demand for a probe into the Rafale deal.

''Scared of the Rafale Scam probe, Modi ji is killing India's premier investigation agency,'' Surjewala said in one his tweets.

Congress chief spokesperson said that Modi government has put the "last nail" in the independence of the CBI by shunting Verma.

''Systematic dismantling and denigrating of CBI is now complete. Once a premier investigating agency, PM ensures that CBI's integrity, credibility and reliability is 'buried and dead','' he said in another tweet.

''Has the CBI Director been sacked for his keenness to probe the layers of corruption in Rafale Scam? Isn't the rest a shoddy cover-up? Let PM answer,?'' Surjewala said in another tweet.

However, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, however, dismissed as "rubbish" allegations that Verma was removed because he wanted to look into the Rafale fighter jet deal. 

Addressing a press conference on the issue, Jaitley said that the government's decision to remove CBI Director Alok Verma and Special Director Rakesh Asthana is based on the CVC's recommendations, asserting that it was absolutely essential to restore the agency's institutional integrity and credibility.

The Central Vigilance Commission made its recommendations last evening, he said. 

Jaitley told reporters that allegations by the top two officers of the country's premier investigation agency led to a "bizarre and unfortunate" situation. 

A Special Investigation Team will probe the charges and both persons will "sit out" as an interim measure, he added.

It is an extraordinary situation, and the accused cannot be allowed to be in charge of an investigation against them, the minister said.

He also dismissed as "rubbish" allegations of opposition parties, including the Congress, that Verma was removed because he wanted to look into the Rafale fighter jet deal. 

In a swipe at them, Jaitley said their allegations indicate they had access to what was going in the mind of the officer concerned, an apparent reference to Verma. That itself demolishes the integrity of the person they are trying to support, he said.