As top two officers of the agency were engaged in an unprecedented bitter feud, the apex court Friday reposed its faith in Justice Patnaik to supervise Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) inquiry into allegations against the CBI director levelled by his deputy, Special Director Rakesh Asthana.
The government had effected the dramatic changes, that constituted an order to Verma and Asthana to go one leave; to instal Rao in Verma's place as Director that it stated was "interim" later when the matter was taken to court; and transfers of CBI officials perceived to be "close" to Verma and those who had been working with him in the investigations against Asthana. Decisions taken by him since October 23 till date shall not be implemented, it said.
In the beginning, the apex court said the CVC inquiry on allegations and counter-allegations should be completed in 10 days under the supervision of this court.
Hearing Verma's plea challenging the government's decision to divest him of his duties and send him on leave, the court also sought a response from the CVC and the Centre.
Rahul Gandhi, the scion of India´s Nehru-Gandhi dynasty and president of the Congress party, was briefly taken to a Delhi police station after leading a march by hundreds of supporters to the CBI headquarters.
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He was part of the two-member Supreme Court bench which had commuted the death sentence of the American Centre attack mastermind Aftab Ansari and Jamulludin Nasir. It said for the time being, no monitoring by anyone else should be allowed.
During the brief hearing today, senior advocate FS Nariman advanced arguments on behalf of the CBI chief.
On the whole, while both sides may have bones to pick with the order, the Centre is likely to be more aggrieved, since Verma's chief grievance - the orders of the CVC and Centre - could still be easily addressed subsequently by the court. Asthana is said to have withstood vast political pressures during the fodder scam probe.
He argued that CBI director is appointed for a tenure of two years by a committee comprising the Prime Minister, leader of opposition and the Chief Justice of India as per provisions of the DSPE Act. Verma states in the petition that Rakesh Asthana had "stymied" several decisions which were crucial to the investigation of these cases.
In his petition Verma said "CBI´s autonomy was being compromised as certain investigations into high functionaries do not take the direction that may be desirable to the government".