Former Supreme Court judge Markandey Katju on Thursday vouched for Justice AK Sikri who voted in favour of removing Alok Verma as the director of Central Bureau of Investigation. Katju said Sikri would not have taken the decision without “strong material on record” against Verma.

On Friday, in a Facebook post, Katju cited his telephonic conversation with Sikri in response to questions being raised over why the high-power committee did not call Verma for a hearing before taking the decision to remove him as the agency’s chief.

The former Supreme Court judge claimed Sikri said the Central Vigilance Commission had recorded “prima facie findings of guilt on some serious charges against Verma” and that the commission had heard Verma before recording its findings. Katju said that based on the commission’s findings, Sikri was of the opinion that Verma should not remain director of CBI until the matter was fully investigated and a final decision is “given about the guilt or innocence of Verma”.

Sikri was part of a high-power selection committee along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge. Sikri and Modi voted in favour of Verma’s removal and said his continuance as director would be detrimental to the CBI’s institutional integrity, while Kharge opposed the removal and gave a dissent note.

Katju claimed Sikri said: “As regards the question of not giving a hearing to Verma, it is a settled principle that even suspension can be done without giving the accused a hearing, and suspensions pending enquiry are very common. It is only dismissal which cannot be done without a hearing.”

Sikri purportedly said that Verma’s services were not terminated. “He has not even been suspended, but only transferred retaining his salary and perks,” Sikri said, according to Katju. “He has only been transferred to an equivalent post.”

The government had first divested Verma of his duties in October, sending him on leave. A Supreme Court order had on January 8 reinstated Verma and had asked the committee to consider his case within a week. Verma, who has been posted as director general of Fire Services, Civil Defence, and Home Guards, said he was transferred on the basis of false, unsubstantiated allegations made by just one person against him.