No evidence of corruption, decision of PM-led panel on Alok Verma very hasty: SC’s monitor

Seema Chishti
Ex-CBI Director Alok Verma. Of the three members of the selection panel, PM Modi and Justice A K Sikri were against Verma's continuance as the CBI chief. (Express Photo)

Justice A K Patnaik, the retired Supreme Court judge who was asked by the apex court to supervise the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) enquiry that eventually led to the ouster of CBI Director Alok Verma, on Friday said there was "no evidence of corruption" against Verma, and "what the CVC says cannot be the final word".

He was critical of "the very, very hasty" decision of the Prime Minister-led selection committee to remove Verma from the CBI Director's post over charges of corruption and dereliction of duty Thursday, two days after he was reinstated by the Supreme Court.

Of the three members of the selection panel, Prime Minister Modi and Justice A K Sikri were against Verma's continuance as the CBI chief in light of the CVC report and "the extremely serious nature of observations made by the CVC against Verma". Mallikarjun Kharge, Leader of Congress in Lok Sabha, did not go with the other two members, contested the CVC report and filed a dissent note.

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Justice Patnaik told The Indian Express: "There was no evidence against Verma regarding corruption. The entire enquiry was held on (CBI Special Director Rakesh) Asthana's complaint. I have said in my report that none of the findings in the CVC's report are mine."

The Indian Express has also learnt that in a two-page report to the Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Patnaik stated that "the CVC forwarded to me a statement dated 9.11.2018 purportedly signed by Shri Rakesh Asthana. I may clarify that this statement purportedly signed by Shri Rakesh Asthana was not made in my presence".

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Reflecting on how events unfolded this week, Justice Patnaik said: "Even if the Supreme Court said that the high-power committee must decide, the decision was very, very hasty. We are dealing with an institution here. They should have applied their mind thoroughly, especially as a Supreme Court judge was there. What the CVC says cannot be the final word."

Underlining that his role was merely supervisory, he confirmed Verma's claim in his letter Friday to the Department of Personnel and Training that the findings of the CVC report were not his.

"The Supreme Court entrusted me with a responsibility of supervising, so I ensured my presence, the Sana evidence etc, and I ensured that principles of natural justice were applied. Verma had access to all the documents and got a personal hearing. The enquiry was completed in fourteen days, it was all done. Thereafter, it was for the Supreme Court to decide. The report was 50 pages but there were 1,000 pages of annexures," he said.

On January 8, when the Supreme Court set aside the October 23, 2018 orders of the CVC and the government pesting Verma of his powers and functions pending inquiry, the order made no mention of Justice Patnaik's findings.

The selection committee cited the CVC report and "the extremely serious nature of observations made by the CVC against Verma" to remove him from the post of Director.