L’affaire Alok Verma

Within a couple of days of his being reinstated as CBI Director by the Supreme Court, Alok Verma has again been shunted out of the CBI by the Selection Committee comprising the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and a judge of the Supreme Court deputed by the Chief Justice of India on his behalf. The Prime Minister was determined to have Verma out of the premier investigating body. He was supported by Justice Sikri. Only the Leader of the Opposition, Mallikarjun Kharge, was against it and wanted that an opportunity be given to Verma to present his side of the case. So the decision went against him by 2-1.  Verma has been a minor post. He has been made Director-General of Fire Services – an office he has expectedly refused to accept. At the same time, Verma has accused the Government of destroying the autonomy of the CBI. This is the charge the Opposition, especially the Congress, has been consistently making against the Government – that it is destroying the autonomy of every constitutional and autonomous body.
As far as rules and procedures go, there is nothing irregular in the decision of the Selection Committee to send Verma packing again from the CBI. But in public life, rules and procedural formalities apart, there is such a thing as public perception. Congress President Rahul Gandhi has alleged that Verma was ousted from the CBI in a midnight coup because he (Verma) was planning to conduct an inquiry into the Rafale aircraft deal which might have brought out many skeletons tumbling out of the Government cupboard. The Government was hell bent on preventing it. Hence the tearing hurry to remove the CBI Director in the dead of the night. This may not be the true. But there is no doubt that Rahul Gandhi has sufficiently jittered the Government and sent it into a panic mode. The shunting out of Verma in such circumstances is likely to strengthen the public impression that there is something worrying for the Government in the Rafale deal.
The fiasco over the CBI director’s removal has come at a time when the Government and the ruling party have suffered another setback. The Supreme Court has not yet begun hearing of the Ayodhya case and may not begin it before the general elections. The Supreme Court has taken the same approach to the BJP’s rath yatra programme in West Bengal. So, the comfort Modi has derived from Justice Sikri siding with him in the Alok Verma case, may not be much.

Friday, 11 January, 2019