The Congress on Wednesday termed the "removal" of CBI Director Alok Verma "illegal" and alleged that it has been triggered by the Narendra Modi governments fear that its "dirty secrets" in the "Rafale scam" might pop out.
Hours after the Centre sent Verma "on leave" and asked Joint Director M. Nageshwar Rao "to look after the duties and functions" of the CBI Director in the interim, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said the move was in gross violation of the Lokpal Act that governs the appointment of CBI directors as per a Supreme Court verdict.
"The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) has no locus standi to either appoint a CBI director or transfer a director. This is a clear case of the CVC being usurped and misused by the government to cover up things," Singhvi told the media here countering the Centre's bid to justify the move.
Defending the decision Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley earlier said the step was absolutely essential and was recommended by the CVC to maintain "institutional integrity and credibility" of the probe agency.
"The defacto removal of Verma was in gross violation of laws and procedures. There is too much at stake for this government to cover up. All this is a result of the Modi government's Rafale-mania," said Singhvi.
Citing the Lokpal Act, Singhvi asked if the decision was taken on the basis of the recommendation of a search committee that comprises of the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice of India and the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha.
"The government post-midnight takes the decision and now puts the onus on the CVC. But was the Leader of Opposition or the CJI called? Moreover, it also is in gross violation of the Supreme Court judgment in the Vineet Narain case wherein a tenure of a minimum of two years was fixed for the CBI director," said Singhvi citing the 1997 verdict.
He said that neither Verma's removal nor Rao's appointment was referred to the Selection Committee, as is required under the law and the Supreme Court directives.
"The CBI director's tenure as per the 1997 verdict is regardless of the date of his superannuation. The court also ruled that the CBI director could be transferred only under extraordinary circumstances and the transfer needs to be approved by the Selection Committee, none of which have been done.
"This is a sordid story and the sorry state of affairs where the government is abusing and misusing central agencies and institutions to cover up its dark and dirty secrets," added Singhvi.