A bench headed, by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, inquired about the reasons behind the sudden decision by the Centre and the CVC to act against Verma.
New Delhi: The “essence” of every government action must be in the interest of the institution, the Supreme Court observed on Thursday while questioning the government and the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) about the “grave exigency” that prompted the “overn-ight” decision to divest CBI director Alok Verma of his powers over his bitter feud with special director Rakesh Asthana. The court reserved its verdict on the petition filed by Mr Verma challenging the Centre’s October 23 decision to divest him of all powers and sending him on leave.
A bench headed, by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, inquired about the reasons behind the sudden decision by the Centre and the CVC to act against Mr Verma.
“It was not that the fight between Mr Verma and Mr Asthana emerged overnight, forcing the government to divest the director of powers without consulting the selection committee comprising the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the Chief Justice,” the court said.
The bench, also comprising Justice S.K. Kaul and K.M. Joseph, posed searching questions to the CVC for waiting for more than three months to intervene in the feud between Mr Verma and Mr Asthana over corruption allegations levelled against each other.
“Institutions cannot be allowed to crumble… The essence of every government action must be in the interest of the institution and to adopt the best course,” said the bench.
At one stage, the court asked, “Can there be an acting director?” Mr Verma’s counsel and senior advocate F.S. Nariman replied in the affirmative.
The bench also asked if the apex court can appoint anyone to head the CBI. Mr Nariman responded that the top court can do so as it has the powers under the Constitution.
The Supreme Court noted that attorney-general K.K. Venugopal had submitted that the circumstances culminating in the situation in the probe agency had started in July but the government action came in October.
“Can you see the situation which prompted CVC to take action. It was not overnight. It was happening since July as the attorney-general said,” the bench said.
The bench said that the government has to be ”fair” and asked what was the difficulty in consulting the selection committee before divesting the CBI director of his powers.
“Mr Nariman’s submission is also what is the difficulty in consulting the selection panel. It is better to consult the selection panel. What is the best in the interest of the administration of the institution,” the bench said, adding “at the earliest, go to the panel or committee when there is a grave exigency”.