The Supreme Court on Tuesday adjourned to November 29 the hearing in the pleas filed by Central Bureau of Investigation Director Alok Verma and non-governmental organisation Common Cause against the government’s decision to send the agency chief on leave, Bar and Bench reported.
The Central Vigilance Commission had on November 12 submitted a report on corruption allegations against Verma to the Supreme Court in a sealed cover. On Monday, Verma filed his response to the Central Vigilance Commission’s report in a sealed cover.
Handing over a report published in The Wire to the CBI’s chief lawyer Fali Nariman, Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi alleged that some of its content was part of Verma’s reply to the Central Vigilance Commission report.
Gogoi said he was “deeply upset” that the confidential report had been leaked to the media. “I am disturbed,” he said, according to Live Law. “Any leak was unauthorised. Free press and responsible press should go hand in hand.”
“It is only for you Mr Nariman and not as a counsel for Alok Verma,” the bench said while handing over the news article to the lawyer, PTI reported. “We have given this to you as you are one of the most respected and senior members of the institution. Please help us.”
Nariman, after going through the report, said it was “totally unauthorised” and that he was very “disturbed and shocked”. “This gives a new twist to the word responsible press and freedom of press,” he added, demanding that the journalists concerned be summoned to court.
“We are not hearing [the case] today,” Gogoi said. “We don’t think any of you deserve any hearing.” He said the matter would be deferred “for reasons which the court is not inclined to record”.
The chief justice also expressed displeasure that the details of another petition, this one filed by CBI officer Manish Kumar Sinha challenging his transfer by the Centre, had appeared in the media.
However, in a statement, The Wire said that its report had Verma’s response to questions the Central Vigilance Commission had put forward to him. “These were not in a sealed cover and were not meant for the SC,” the news website said. “As for his response to CVC’s final report, handed over to SC in sealed cover, we haven’t seen/reported that.”
Later, Nariman told the top court that there had been no violation of the Supreme Court’s order. He corroborated The Wire’s claim that its report had Verma’s answers to questions the vigilance commission had asked him.
Gogoi also expressed unhappiness at a request made by Verma’s lawyer Gopal Sankaranarayanan seeking more time for his client to file a reply to the vigilance commission’s report. To this, Nariman said he was unaware of the submission and had come to know of it only through the media. The bench then adjourned the hearing to November 29.
On October 15, the agency had named Asthana in a First Information Report and accused him of accepting a Rs 2-crore bribe to scuttle an investigation against businessman Moin Qureshi, allegedly involved in multiple corruption cases. Asthana had in turn accused Verma of trying to falsely implicate him and levelled corruption charges against him.