Supreme Court reserved its verdict on petitions by Verma and the NGO Common Cause challenging the Centre’s decision to strip him of his powers and send him on leave in October.
Insisting that the government action amounted to Verma’s transfer, senior advocate Fali Nariman contended: “I am a CBI director only on my visiting card. I must continue to hold office and not just [the] post. Transfer doesn’t mean transfer in service jurisprudence, it must be seen in its ordinary meaning. If CVC and government orders are seen, all functions (of the CBI director) have been taken away.”
“The government must in all circumstances go to the high-powered committee of the Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition and Chief Justice of India for a call on the CBI director,” Nariman said.
Senior advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for Common Cause, argued that the CVC had limited powers and could only supervise corruption cases and that it didn’t have the authority to divest the CBI director of his powers.
Concluding its three-day hearing in the case, a bench comprising Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi and justices SK Kaul and KM Jospeh remarked: “This situation that prompted CVC to take the action [of divesting Verma of his powers as CBI director] did not happen overnight.
“If you [CVC] could have tolerated it since July, it is not that you were forced to take a decision immediately.”
On October 23, after an increasingly public feud between Verma and his deputy, Rakesh Asthana, who accused each other of corruption, reached the courts, the CVC, which has jurisdictional oversight of the CBI, divested both of them of their powers and sent them on leave. The Centre told the judges on Wednesday that it had acted well within its jurisdiction and didn’t have much of a choice, saying the two officers were fighting like “cats.”