Congress muddies the waters as CBI chief quits

Hours after his removal and transfer, former chief of India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Alok Verma, quit Indian Police Service on Friday.

A three-member committee headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a 2:1 decision on Thursday, sacked Verma after examining some ten charges levelled against him by the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) that serves as CBI’s watchdog.

The committee found the charges against Verma extremely serious and transferred him to Fire Services, Civil Defence and Home Guards until his retirement on Jan 31.

The CBI has launched an investigation into CVC’s charges against him.

Verma, who could have stepped down with grace earlier, questioned the select committee’s decision to shift him to another department. He said the panel did not give him the opportunity to defend himself against the charges levelled by CVC. According to him, natural justice was scuttled to ensure his ouster from the post of CBI director.

In an election year, Verma’s sacking and subsequent transfer leading to his resignation may serve as voting fodder for Congress. They are now linking it to the India-France Rafale fighter jet deal to target Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party.

According to Congress, the Modi government’s midnight move in October asking Verma to go on long leave along with his feuding deputy Rakesh Asthana was only to scuttle an impending ‘CBI investigation’ into the Rafale deal.

BJP says the ‘CBI probe’ was just a presumption by Congress to revive a debate on Rafael after the Supreme Court recently ruled that the Modi government had followed the procedure in striking a government-to-government deal for the fighter jets which the India Air Force desperately needs.

Verma says the CVC’s charges against him are “false, unsubstantiated and frivolous” made by one individual inimical to him. If Verma is so confident of proving his innocence, let him wait for the investigation to be completed. Since the CVC report had raised doubts regarding Verma’s integrity, the panel headed by Modi acted rightly by shifting him from the investigative agency which is handling several corruption cases including illicit assets by fugitives.

The Congress claim that Verma was shunted out to scuttle the CBI inquiry into the Rafale deal raises questions. How did the party come to know that CBI was going to launch a probe? Did anyone within the CBI send them any signals regarding this? How can the party leaders presume that Verma would have given a damning report against the deal? Was the Congress plotting against the Modi government ahead of general elections using Verma as a tool?

Congress alleges BJP is hell-bent on destroying institutions. The Modi government was only trying to clean up the CBI by sending two feuding top officials, Verma and Asthana, on long leave. Since Verma was appointed by the Modi government, he had become a big embarrassment for them after the feud with Asthana erupted into an open conflict.

India’s prime probe agency needs officers with unblemished record who can act without fear or favour. Verma may be one such officer. Let the truth come out after a fair investigation.

Congress must stop its efforts to muddy the waters to gain more votes in the general elections.