“We don’t think anyone of you deserves a hearing”, Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi and his bench opined in the matter concerning the CBI and its two top officials, Director Alok Verma and his deputy Rakesh Asthana.
The Supreme Court was enraged as to how the leftist propaganda website The Wire accessed Alok Verma’s responses to the queries of Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) which were supposed to be in a sealed cover.
CJI went on to chastise the litigant by observing:
“We expressed that highest degree of confidentiality should be maintained and this litigant takes the papers and shares it with everyone. Our respect for this institution is not shared by anyone for some strange reason”
In the report that The Wire published, it claims that Verma questions the integrity of CVC as an independent investigator. He also alleges that “the CVC seems to be on a roving expedition to cast aspersions on my integrity and impartiality.” The CVC is looking into four specific charges against Verma that Special Director Asthana made against him. These include, One, his role in deliberately letting people off the hook in the IRCTC Case involving convicted Former Bihar CM Lalu Prasad Yadav. Two, creating roadblocks in Moin Qureshi case. Three, inducting IPS officers in CBI whose records were not clean and four, tipping off an ex-deputy director of Enforcement Directorate about possible raids at his house.
The Wire published Director Alok Verma’s response to these allegations wherein he says, in the IRCTC Case, Bihar Deputy CM Sushil Modi and an official of PMO were following up the case and adds that he did not want to rush through the case “without following the due process.” He also goes on to claim that “Asthana was a party in each of his decisions, which the special director now alleges to be a procedural violation.”
One must realise that these are allegations and counters by two top officials of the CBI regarding matters now being heard by the Apex Court. Media running these have implications on National Security and that is why perhaps, the CJI was upset at the leak.
When the CJI gave the TheWire’s retort to Alok Verma’s lawyer, Fali Nariman, he suggested that the SC should summon the person who ran the story
“What can we do with all these people (media) snooping around? Wanting to know this, wanting to know that. This was completely unauthorised. I’m very disturbed by this. I would suggest you summon the person who has carried this story. How can this come?”
Meanwhile, sensing trouble, The Wire tried to downplay the incident by tweeting “These are the stories The Wire published based on Alok Verma’s responses to a questionnaire the CVC sent him. These have nothing to do with Verma’s reply to the CVC’s final report, which the Supreme Court wanted in a sealed cover.”
This clarification of The Wire and the submission made by Fali Nariman opens up more questions on the leak.
Although Nariman clarified that there was no violation, the Apex Court didn’t seem to be impressed with that argument.
It remains to be seen if the Editors at The Wire will be called in for Contempt of Court under the Contempt of Courts Act 1971.
The Act clearly states the following:
Section 7 of the Contempt of Courts Act 1971:
PUBLICATION OF INFORMATION RELATING TO PROCEEDING IN CHAMBERS OR IN CAMERA NOT CONTEMPT EXCEPT IN CERTAIN CASES:
Section 7(1)(b) of the Contempt of Courts Act 1971:
Where the court, on grounds of public policy or in the exercise of any power vested in it, expressly prohibits the publication of all information relating to the proceeding or of information of the description which is published.
Sec 7(1)(d) of the Contempt of Courts Act 1971:
Where the information relates to a secret process, discovery or invention which is an issue in the proceedings.
Sec 7(2) of the Contempt of Courts Act 1971:
Without prejudice to the provisions contained in subsection (1) a person shall not be guilty of contempt of court for publishing the text or a fair and accurate summary of the whole, or any part, of an order made by a court sitting in chambers or in camera, unless the court has expressly prohibited the publication thereof on grounds of public policy, or for reasons connected with public order or the security of the State, or on the ground that it contains information relating to secret process, discovery or invention, or in exercise of any power vested on it.
One can argue that considering the matter involves the top investigating agency of the country, the leak of sealed information to the media is an issue of public order and since the reporters of The Wire cast their doubts over the role of the Prime Minister’s Office in their subsequent reports, this might affect the security of the state as well.
All of this makes us question if The Wire and its reporters want to purposely present Alok Verma’s side of the story to help him garner public sympathy and somehow manage to tarnish the image of the Modi Government, whom the TheWire and its reporters love to hate.
It also raises doubts as to whose interests are The Wire serving, by dragging the name of National Security Advisor and other Intelligence Officers, one wonders what effect it will have on the morale of our investigating agencies.