CBI director removed because PM Narendra Modi feared action in Rafale scam, says Congress

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Mumbai | Published: October 25, 2018 12:30:10 AM

CBI director Alok Verma was removed overnight without the approval of the selection committee because Prime Minister Narendra Modi feared that the top officer might take steps that could "hurt" him in the Rafale "scam", the Congress alleged Wednesday.

Congress’s chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said the prime minister’s “desperate bid” to cover up the Rafale “scam” had pushed the CBI into complete “disintegration”.

CBI director Alok Verma was removed overnight without the approval of the selection committee because Prime Minister Narendra Modi feared that the top officer might take steps that could “hurt” him in the Rafale “scam”, the Congress alleged Wednesday. Talking to reporters here, Congress’s chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said the prime minister’s “desperate bid” to cover up the Rafale “scam” had pushed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into complete “disintegration”.

He claimed that the government “panicked” because Verma was likely to file an FIR in connection with the Rafale issue, based on complaints received by the probe agency.

Surjewala also sought an “explanation” from the prime minister over the overnight removal of the CBI director. There was no immediate reaction from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) on the allegations.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has, however, dismissed as “rubbish” the allegations that Verma was removed because he wanted to look into the Rafale fighter jet deal. In an unprecedented fallout of a raging feud between Verma and CBI Special Director Rakesh Asthana, who is facing bribery and extortion charges, both the top officers were stripped of their powers and sent on leave.

Surjewala said, “The removal of CBI director Alok Verma was illegal and unconstitutional. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was petrified that the number one in the CBI (Verma) was about to take steps that might have hurt him in the Rafale scam. The government panicked because Verma was likely to file an FIR in the Rafale issue, based on complaints received by the investigating agency.”

He also hit out at Jaitley and Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad for putting out a “weak defence of cleaning the system to justify the prime minister’s panic reaction on the Rafale scam”.

“In order to save the prime minister, the finance minister and the law minister are taking refuge behind a bogus apology by giving an explanation of a fraud equivalence,” the Congress leader said. He asked the government to clarify if the new interim chief of the CBI, Nageshwar Rao, was “under a cloud”, adding, “Doesn’t this fact demolish the government’s argument of cleaning the system?”

“Prime Minister Modi must explain why the CBI director was removed past midnight and what was the tearing hurry to do so without an approval of the selection committee. The government wants to denigrate and disintegrate the CBI, in a desperate attempt to cover up the Rafale issue.

“Doesn’t it tantamount to complete trashing and slithering of Constitutional norms, laws and all semblance of political morality and accountability?” he asked. Surjewala also attacked the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), which has supervisory powers over the CBI.

“The CVC acted as a stooge and a captive puppet of the Modi government by abdicating its statutory responsibilities to play partisan politics for protecting the Modi government and its favourite government officer,” he alleged. The Congress leader accused the Centre of “trampling the Constitution and laws and making a mockery of the CBI and institutions”.

“As per the orders of the government, the CBI director was divested of his duties. Only a selection committee comprising the chief justice of India, the prime minister and the leader of opposition can effect such a removal,” he said. Surjewala added that the CBI now stood for “complete burial of investigation”.

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