Modi government’s bid to avoid Rafale deal probe behind CBI ‘drama’, says Former Union minister Yashwant Sinha

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Nagpur | Updated: October 25, 2018 12:37:58 AM

Former Union minister Yashwant Sinha Wednesday alleged the Modi government's attempts to avoid an inquiry into the Rafale deal was behind the ongoing turmoil in the CBI.

Former Union minister Yashwant Sinha

Former Union minister Yashwant Sinha Wednesday alleged the Modi government’s attempts to avoid an inquiry into the Rafale deal was behind the ongoing turmoil in the CBI. Charging that the Modi government had “destroyed” the credibility of the CBI, the former BJP leader said the Centre’s decision to remove agency director Alok Verma was “illegal” and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had no authority to do so.

Sinha also alleged that the government could go to any extent to “destroy” the country’s institutions in order to protect itself from any inquiry. Verma and CBI’s Special Director Rakesh Asthana, who were at loggerheads, were divested of their powers and sent on leave by the government. A late night order Tuesday from the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi sent Verma and Asthana on leave.

The government has strongly defended its decision, saying it was “absolutely essential” to maintain the CBI’s institutional integrity. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley asserted the government’s decision to send Verma and his deputy Rakesh Asthana was based on recommendations by the Central Vigilance Commissioner

Addressing a press conference here, Sinha said sending CBI director Alok Verma on leave was completely “against the law”.
“The CBI director cannot be removed by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet or Cabinet Committee on Security or the Cabinet itself. The PM has no authority to remove the CBI director. While forcing him to go on leave, he has been effectively removed from his post,” he said.

“We have no hesitation in saying that it is a witch-hunt by the government. The officer who had filed an FIR against special director Rakesh Asthana has been transferred to Andaman & Nicobar…and in these given circumstances it is quite clear it is done as a punishment,” Sinha said. He was referring to Deputy Superintendent of Police A K Bassi, who was sent to Port Blair. Bassi was probing the case against Asthana.

Sinha further said the CBI as an institution stands destroyed. “What has happened today is unprecedented and the situation we are facing today is much worse than the declared Emergency of 1975-77. Never before had the institutions in the democracy faced a situation they are facing today,” Sinha said.

The Director of the CBI is the ultimate chief of the agency and the special director is not and therefore there is no question of a tug-of-war between him (Verma) and Asthana, he said.  “The government has destroyed the credibility of CBI,” he said.

“Modi stands for ‘Man who Destroyed Institutions’. Now we are talking about the CBI, but we know how other important institutions have been destroyed. I am saying it with conviction that all the drama that we are witnessing now is centered around the Rafale deal.

“It is in the public domain that a few of my distinguished colleagues — Arun Shourie and Prashant Bhushan — took a petition to CBI director Alok Verma. It was also signed by me and Verma had granted time to them,” Sinha said.

“However, afterwards there were some media reports which said the government is very upset about why the CBI director gave time to meet them and why he personally accepted the petition of complaint against the Rafale deal,” he said.

“We don’t know what happened about the petition. But something about it is appearing in the news that the CBI director asked the Ministry of Defence if the documents attached to the petition were authentic or not and this has not gone well with the government and are upset with CBI director,” Sinha said. He alleged the higher-ups in the government felt that the CBI director could file an FIR in the Rafale deal as the petition has legally proved why an FIR must be registered in the case. This resulted into all these happenings in the last two days, he said.

“We all know in what circumstances the Gujarat cadre officer was deputed as the Special CBI director with a purpose. Similarly, the appointment of the CVC was also for a purpose and I want to say that all these steps were taken in advance to shield themselves to protect themselves from any action in future,” he said.

“The CBI has a huge issue before it on how to address the Rafale deal. The government has a huge challenge before it– how to protect itself and all these happenings taking place is to protect itself from further inquiry into the Rafale deal,” alleged Yashwant Sinha.

“This government can go to any extent to destroy any institution in the country in order to protect itself from any inquiry. The public is watching all this and will reply when time comes,” he said.

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