The SC verdict on CBI Director is not a ‘blow to the government’, don’t let pliant media fool you

The same media was silent when Rakesh Asthana's appointment as CBI special director was upheld by SC, dismissing as many as three petitions by Prashant Bhushan

The judgement is out in the CBI vs CBI feud. The Supreme Court, that had earlier reinstated Rakesh Asthana, has today reinstated Director Alok Verma, but with several terms and conditions. The Supreme Court has, in essence, asserted that the manner in which Alok Verma was asked to go on leave was incorrect. The SC reinstated Alok Verma with clipped wings, saying that he won’t be able to take any major policy decisions till the High Powered Committee comprising of Chief Justice Gogoi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Leader of Opposition decides his fate.

Several journalists were quick to comment on the verdict asserting that this Supreme Court decision was a major blow to the Modi government.

While the pliant media has seemingly decided to ignore the fine nuances, in reality, the Supreme Court verdict is anything but a ‘blow to the Modi government’.

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The Supreme Court has essentially only ceremoniously reinstated Alok Verma as the Director of CBI with no power to take any policy decisions till the decision of the High Powered Committee comprising of Chief Justice Gogoi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Leader of Opposition. The decision is reportedly to be taken within a week. Essentially, the Supreme Court reinstated Alok Verma on a technicality, saying that the government should have referred to the Select Committee consisting of the Chief Justice of India, Prime Minister and Leader of Opposition to initiate Alok Verma’s removal.

The High Powered Committee may as well uphold Verma’s ouster and that fate remains to be seen. So on that count alone, to say that this decision is a blow to the government is incorrect. If, in fact, the government wanted Verma to not take any policy decisions, as claimed by several journalists, then the government has been granted its wish.

One must also remember that Alok Verma is set to retire on 31st January 2019. With only weeks to go for his retirement, to paint this ceremonial reinstatement as a ‘blow to the government’ is ridiculous.

Another aspect of the CBI vs CBI feud is that the very media that is painting this technical verdict as a ‘blow to the government’ has not yet commented on the same Supreme Court’s order on appointment of Rakesh Asthana. According to the same media, the Modi government had preferred Asthana over Verma. In December 2018, The Supreme Court had dismissed a curative petition challenging the appointment of IPS officer Rakesh Asthana to the post of CBI special director. The apex court decision came while hearing a curative petition filed by Prashant Bhushan representing NGO Common Cause. Bhushan had filed the plea to reconsider the Supreme Court’s November 2017 judgment upholding the appointment of IPS officer to the CBI, and it was the third petition filed by him in the case.

Rahul Gandhi had gone all guns blazing against Rakesh Asthana just a while before the SC judgement.

Supreme upholding the appointment of Asthana, who is considered by the opposition as PM Modi’s ‘blue-eyed boy’ was far more comprehensive than that of Alok Verma whose fate still hangs in the balance.

The aim of the Modi government in sending both Asthana and Verma on leave was to ensure the sanctity of CBI doesn’t get tainted by the feud between the two, and to ensure a fair enquiry into the allegations of both the officers of CBI. CVC had alleged that Verma was not cooperating in its investigations against him. In fact, it was CVC which had recommended that both the officers should be sent on leave, so that probe against them can be conducted smoothly. With CVC already completing the probe against Verma, that purpose of sending Verma on leave was already served.


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