So far, the non-Congress Opposition had not shown an overtly keen fighting spirit in the Rafale affair, though many had issued pro forma statements.
Institutional pushback against the decision of the Union government to immobilise the CBI if it wouldn’t do its bidding under director Alok Verma became evident on Friday with the Supreme Court giving a series of directions to restore sanity.
At about the same time, at short notice, the Opposition Congress Party was able to stage an energetic demonstration outside the virtually sealed office of the CBI in the national capital with the demand that the institutional capabilities of the CBI must not be compromised on the altar of crippling partisanship that the present government expected from the top agency in sensitive probes.
It is politically of interest that other Opposition parties also participated in the Congress-initiated programme although the party’s president Rahul Gandhi, who led from the front and courted arrest along with senior colleagues, sought to stress that Mr Verma had been dislodged from his position as director because he had indicated that he was readying the agency to probe the alleged corruption at the highest levels in the Rafale deal. So far, the non-Congress Opposition had not shown an overtly keen fighting spirit in the Rafale affair, though many had issued pro forma statements.
The apex court has directed that the probe ordered by the Central Vigilance Commission into the actions of the CBI director and its special director, who had mutually attacked one another on grounds of corruption — a course of action that suited the government which seemed overly keen to knock Mr Verma out of action — would be supervised by a retired judge of the top court.
This plainly means that the CVC and the government cannot play ducks and drakes with the investigation even if they are so inclined. Further, the CVC-ordered investigation, which the government conveniently used to send Mr Verma on forced leave, has to be completed in a fortnight, and cannot drag on for as long as it is convenient to keep the CBI director out in the cold.
The Supreme Court has also directed that the “interim director” appointed by the government after dislodging Mr Verma must not take any important steps or steps relating to policy, and in a sealed cover furnish details of all his actions to the apex court. In totality, the instructions of the top court at the first hearing of the case brought against his forced leave by Mr Verma, who has challenged the government’s bonafides as well as motives, appeared to rein in the regime.
It is to be hoped that the apex court also goes into the issue of the appointment of the controversial special director, and whether the CVC has the authority to send the director on forced leave.