By Ananthakrishnan G
Observing that the Chief Vigilance Commissioner’s enquiry report on allegations against CBI Director Alok Verma states that “some charges require further probe”, the Supreme Court Friday gave Verma time until November 19 to reply to the findings.
A bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph, directing that Verma be given a copy of the CVC report in sealed cover so that he can file a reply, said: “The Chief Vigilance Commissioner has filed his report.It can be categorised into four. very complimentary on some charges, not so complimentary on some charges, very uncomplimentary on some charges, and some charges require further probe.”
CJI Gogoi said that retired Supreme Court judge Justice A K Patnaik, who had been asked to monitor the CVC probe, had also filed a “note” in the matter.
Verma had approached the Supreme Court, challenging the October 23 government order which divested him of all responsibilities and sent him on leave following differences with CBI Special Director Rakesh Asthana. Asthana too was sent on leave.
On October 26, the Supreme Court, while hearing Verma’s petition, had given the CVC two weeks to complete its enquiry against him — the allegations against Verma had been levelled by Asthana.
The bench, which went through the enquiry report, said “pursuant to the order of this Court dated 26th October, 2018 the Central Vigilance Commission (‘CVC’) has filed a report in sealed cover. We have perused the report of the CVC. We are of the view that, at this stage, and before taking any decision thereon, a copy of the report of the CVC (along with Annexures thereto) should be furnished by the Registry of this Court, in sealed cover, to the learned counsel appearing for the petitioner — Alok Kumar Verma. We order accordingly. It will be open for the petitioner.to file his response to the said report of the CVC, again in sealed cover”.
It said “the above course of action has been considered necessary by the Court keeping in mind the need to preserve and maintain the sanctity of the institution of the CBI and public confidence in the said institution. We also make it clear that the present order requiring furnishing the report of the CVC in sealed cover to the learned counsel for the petitioner is being made in the peculiar facts of the case and as a one-time measure”.
The bench also allowed the office of Attorney General K K Venugopal and that of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to have copies of the report in sealed covers. The judges asked Verma, the Attorney General and Solicitor General to treat the report “with utmost confidentiality for the reasons afore-stated”.
Appearing for Verma, senior advocate Fali S Nariman requested the bench that the process not be delayed. He said the reply will be ready by November 19. The bench agreed and directed Verma to submit his reply to the Supreme Court Secretary General by 1 pm on November 19. The matter will be taken up on November 20.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, representing Asthana, said he too should be given a copy of the CVC report, but the bench declined.
The judges also clarified that they did not intend to ask anyone else to file replies at this stage.
“At this stage, we are not inclined to call upon either the Union of India or any other party to submit any response/reply to the said report of the CVC and the only response the Court is permitting is that of the petitioner —Alok Kumar Verma,” the bench said.
The October 26 directions of the bench also restrained M Nageshwar Rao, who was appointed interim CBI Director after Verma was sent on leave, from taking any major policy decision and to submit in a sealed cover a list of all decisions taken by him between October 23 and October 26.
On Friday, the bench said Rao had filed the report pursuant to its order, but deferred its consideration to November 20 while allowing parties to furnish further details, if any.
“In so far as the decisions taken by the Acting Director M Nageshwar Rao. are concerned, we have considered the details of the decisions that he has taken up to the date of the order i.e. 26th October, 2018. While it will be open for any party to supplement the said list, we defer consideration of the matter to Tuesday next i.e. 20th November, 2018,” the bench said.