(Image source from: HuffPost India)
The Supreme Court on Tuesday has reinstated Alok Verma as Chief Bureau of Investigation Director overturning the Narendra Modi government's decision to divest Verma of his duties.
The court has given judgment setting aside the Central Vigilance Commission's (CVC) October 23 order.
Verma will now be reinstated after sent on forced leave by the government following his run-in with his number two Rakesh Asthana, but will not take any decisions till a high powered committee, including the Chief Justice of India and the Prime Minister, take a call on his transfer. The high powered committee will decide on the matter in a week.
The court justified its decision on the ground that the law in the Vineet Narain case was intended to insulate the office from extraneous influences.
The apex court reiterated CBI's independence today, a lawyer representing Verma told reporters.
The court said that the government should have referred to the Select Committee consisting of the CJI, Prime Minister and Leader of Opposition to initiate Alok Verma's removal.
Verma's two-year tenure as CBI director ends this January 31.
The judgment was pronounced by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice KM Joseph in the absence of Chief Justice Gogoi who was on leave.
The Centre had taken a decision against Verma and CBI's Special Director Rakesh Asthana after their conflict become public as they made allegations of corruption against each other.
Verma had sought to quash of three orders of October 23, 2018 - one by the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) and two by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), as being without jurisdiction and in violation of Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution.
CBI's Joint Director M Nageswara Rao, a 1986 batch Odisha-cadre Indian Police Service officer, was given the charge of interim chief of the probe agency.
The Centre had justified its decision to divest Verma of his duties and sending him on leave before the apex court saying he and Asthana were fighting like "Kilkenny cats", exposing the country's premier investigating agency to "public ridicule".
Attorney General K K Venugopal had told the bench, also comprising Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph, that the Centre was well "within its right to intervene" and send both officers on leave by divesting them of their powers.
Venugopal had told the court that "only the God knows where and how this fight between the two top officers would have ended" if the government would not have taken the action which was aimed at restoring the public faith in the CBI.
Challenging the government's decision, Verma's counsel and senior advocate Fali S Nariman had argued that the CBI Director was appointed on February 1, 2017, and "the position of law is that there will be a fixed tenure of two years and this gentleman cannot be even transferred".