Reinstated CBI chief Verma fired again, Congress cries foul

Alok Verma’s return to the central bureau of investigation (CBI) after 77 days’ exile proved short-lived as a high-powered committee headed by prime minister Narendra Modi removed him for the post barely a day after he was re-instated by the Supreme Court.

The charge of the CBI has been given to additional director M Nageshwar Rao, a government order issued on Thursday evening said.

Sources said the committee found prima facie merit in the charges of corruption against Verma even though Congress member of the panel Mallikarjun Kharge vehemently opposed the ouster of the CBI chief.

Prime minister Modi and Justice AK Sikri, who was nominated by chief justice Ranjan Gogoi who had withdrawn himself, ruled in favour of the removal that was approved by 2-1 vote.

The move sparked a fresh round of political controversy with the Congress questioning the speed shown by the government to convene the meeting of the high-powered committee and the officer not being given a chance to present his case.

The central vigilance commission (CVC ) report had made eight charges against him.

Verma has now been appointed as director general of fire services. The government has also formed a nine-member committee to pick the next CBI chief.

The apex court had reinstated Verma just a day ago but had left his fate on the high-powered committee that was given a week’s time to take a decision. But soon after returning to the investigating agencies headquarters as chief, Verma scrapped transfer orders passed by the interim director and brought back officers close to him leading to a new bout of tussle.

Verma’s second ouster was as dramatic as his removal in October in a mid-night operation. Both Verma and his deputy Rakesh Asthana were removed following a feud leading to serious allegations against each other.

The role of central vigilance commission had also come under scanner as the government had said the removal was on the recommendation of CVC.

Verma returned as the chief 77 days after he was shown the door but not beyond a day or two. Verma’s tenure was coming to an end by the end of this month.

Ahead of the meeting of the high-powered committee, Kharge had sought the inquiry report by the CVC into the issue.

The Congress said Verma’s removal is a vindication of the fact that the prime minister was afraid of the senior officer. The party claimed that Verma would have ordered a probe in the allegations of wrongdoing in the purchase of Rafale fighter jets from France.