Alok Verma’s removal procedurally correct, but reeks of petty politics

During one of the many television debates last night on the Central Bureau of Investigation chief Alok Verma’s removal, the news anchor asked Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi whether he felt the Central Vigilance Commission was compromised and that the CVC report, written under the supervision of a retired Supreme Court judge Justice Patnaik, was incorrect. Singhvi, fidgeted, hemmed and hawed and chose not to answer, except to say that he had the highest regard for Justice Patnaik

In a way, that summed up, the dilemma that the entire Opposition is in, with respect to the above episode.

Let us take a few things in perspective. The Modi government ensured that the process was duly followed. The high-powered committee duly met. The Chief Justice of India had deputed another senior judge to the committee (so as not to be accused of any collusion, since he wrote the first judgment restoring Verma back to his office), the leader of the Opposition, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge was also in attendance.

The meeting lasted over two hours and at the end of the day, closed with a 2 to 1 decision to axe Verma, citing the CVC report, which by the way was what the Supreme Court had ordered.

Clearly, the Congress had been out-thought. Congress president Rahul Gandhi brought in the Rafale deal to criticize the decision, while Singhvi, referred to a ‘innumerable skeletons tumbling out of the government’s dirty cupboard’, a charge that no one believes in, except himself (hopefully).

As to how Verma’s presence would aid the Rafale issue, was something one had to imagine.

The second point that every TV anchor, and the Congress-led Opposition, missed out was that Verma was not dismissed from service. He was transferred from CBI to a new post – Director General of Fire Services, Civil Defence and Home Guards, till he retires on Jan 31.

Hence, the demand from Dr Subramanian Swamy and a host of political leaders that ‘Verma ought to have been given a chance to defend himself’, holds no water.

No bureaucrat, however senior he may be, is ever given an option to present a case against his transfer. There is no precedent and nor can there be one.

In that sense, the government had ticked all the process boxes.

However, at a behavioural level, there is still a question of whether the whole thing could have been avoided. Verma had just 20 days to go and the PMO could have acted with a tad more grace and allowed him to retire sans any controversy.

Not that Verma himself helped the matters by making half a dozen transfers in a single day!

The speed with which the decision was taken, seemed to reflect the angst in the PMO against the cop, who had dared not just once, but twice. The angst was also reflective of the PMO’s frustration with their well laid plan of having Asthana as the next CBI chief, being in jeopardy, due him being already mired in the matter before the Supreme Court.

That the debate was turning absurd became clear when Kharge asked the committee to compensate him by allowing him to continue as the CBI chief for the 77 days that he had been removed.

And if this was not comical enough, Singhvi, an eminent jurist himself, said that the CVC report had many adjectives and no conclusive evidence of Verma’s culpability.

The point that all of them seemed to miss was that the executive had decided to consider the results of the CVC report and decided to remove him from the post of CBI.

It was an executive decision — pure and simple, procedurally and legally hunky dory.