NEW DELHI: The Congress on Saturday jumped over retired Supreme Court Judge A K Patnaik's categorical interview that "there was no evidence against (CBI chief) Alok Verma regarding corruption" and the decision of his removal was "very, very hasty," noting that Verma's case is proving to be yet another Rafale of Prime Minister Modi in which new facts are tumbling out every other day to sting him.
Justice Patnaik was asked by the Supreme Court to monitor the inquiry it had ordered to be conducted by the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) against Verma in October. In the interview, he stressed that "what the CVC says cannot be the final word" as the high-powered committee should have applied their mind thoroughly, "especially as a Supreme Court judge (Justice A K Sikri) was there.
Congress spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi told a Press conference here Justice Patnaik's remarks warrants him to demand that the high-powered committee headed by Prime Minister Modi should be immediately summoned to reconsider its decision to remove Verma from the CBI. His three other demands are: Immediately reinstate Verma as CBI chief; His tenure be extended by 77 days that he lost from his 2-year fixed term due to the forced leave struck down by the Supreme Court; And the high powered committee must itself examine all the charges levelled on Verma and not allow the CVC to proceed further with the inquiry as it the leak of the CVC starting the probe amounts to defame Verma.
Singhvi said the way Verma was removed from the post in a midnight drama on Octobter 23 and again attempt by the Prime Minister on Wednesday night to oust him instantaneously compels him to ask: "Was it that the CBI Director was deep into the investigative stage of Rafale?”
Was it that he had evidence, witnesses, documents which would nail the multiple lies of this Government, the Prime Minister, the Ruling Party’s President?"
He said Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge, who is the third member of the high powered committee, had written to adjourn its meeting called Wednesday night since he didn't have the CVC report on which the decision was to be taken. Kharge rushed to the meeting after he received a letter from MoS in PMO Jitendra Singh that "no, we would not adjourn it, we have to have it today."
Kharge, however, got the meeting adjourned for a day to study the CVC report which was to decide Verma's fate, but the very next day the decision was taken by a majority to shunt out Verma, ignoring Kharge's written plea to at least give a hearing to him as a natural right.
"The report with A thousand pages of annexures was evaluated decided and implemented in this manner. Obviously, this Government has lots and lots to hide," Singhvi said. He said a report that the CVC would now start inquiry against Verma on the basis of complaint by his then No 2 Rakesh Asthana is shocking as that amounts to making the CVC the "reviewing authority" not allowed under the Act. He said the CVC can't usurp the authority of the high powered committee and hence his demand to convene the latter's meeting immediately. Kharge is writing a formal letter to the PM for calling the meeting, Singhvi said in reply to a question.
When told that Verma has not said anything on the Rafale deal in his resignation and yet the Congress again saying he lost the job because of attempt to probe it, Singhvi reminded that as the CBI chief he had received a detailed complaint on Rafale only a few days before his powers were taken away and sent on leave in the midnight drama on October 23. Before Verma could have acted on the complaint, he was sent on the forced leave, he said.
The complaint of conspiracy was personally handed over to Verma on October 4 by former BJP ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie and Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan, naming Prime Minister Modi, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Chairman of Reliance ADA group Anil Ambani and the CEO of Dassault Aviation Eric Trappier as the accused.
The CBI sources said Verma had then sought files from the Defence Ministry to enable him to examine the complaint and some files were also received from the ministry but he could not act on them as he was shunted out in the midnight drama. "We do not know anything about the complaint or any files received from the defence ministry," a senior CBI official said on condition of anonymity, dropping hints that all of them may have been swooped out in the midnight by the officers who descended to search the CBI chief's office.