The Supreme Court cancelled the government's midnight order removing Alok Verma and installing an interim chief.
Exiled CBI chief Alok Verma was reinstated by the Supreme Court today, three months after the government divested him of his powers and sent him on forced leave. In what is considered a huge setback to the government, the court cancelled its midnight order removing Alok Verma and installing an interim chief.
Alok Verma can now go back to his office but cannot take any major policy decisions for now, the court said, asking a selection committee to decide on his status. "The legislative intent of insulating the CBI director is manifest," said two judges, setting aside the government's move in a unanimous judgement.
Mr Verma, represented by senior lawyer Fali Nariman, had challenged the government's move saying it went against the rules that mandate that the CBI chief has a fixed two-year term and can be removed only by the high-powered selection committee, which includes the Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition and the Chief Justice of India or a Supreme Court judge nominated by him.
Mr Verma and his deputy Rakesh Asthana, the CBI's top two officers, were both sent on leave in October in the middle of a bitter feud between them.
The government had argued in court that it had no option but to send both officers on leave since they were fighting like "Kilkenny cats". The Central Vigilance Commission, whose recommendation had spurred the government order, had also defended the decision, saying that "extraordinary situations need extraordinary remedies."
The Supreme Court had also asked Alok Verma to respond to a vigilance report on him. The case is centred on corruption charges swapped by Alok Verma and Rakesh Asthana. The CBI director has been accused by Mr Asthana of taking bribe from a Hyderabad-based businessman being investigated by the agency. Mr Verma has accused Mr Asthana of the same crime.