Justice AK Patnaik, the former Supreme Court judge assigned to supervise the Central Vigilance Commission inquiry against Alok Verma, said there was “no evidence of corruption” against the ousted Central Bureau of Investigation director, The Indian Express reported on Saturday.
Two days after the Supreme Court reinstated him, Verma was removed as CBI director on January 10 after a selection committee meeting headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The panel comprised Supreme Court’s Justice AK Sikri, appointed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, and Leader of the Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge. The meeting took into account the CVC inquiry report, which levelled eight counts of charges against Verma, including corruption and dereliction of duty.
Justice Patnaik reiterated that the findings in the report were that of the Central Vigilance Commission and not his. “There was no evidence against Verma regarding corruption. The entire inquiry was held on [CBI Special Director Rakesh] Asthana’s complaint,” he said. “I have said in my report that none of the findings in the CVC’s report are mine.”
Asthana and Verma had accused each other of corruption following which the Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government had abruptly sent both officers on leave in October last year.
Patnaik said the selection committee should have taken more time to decide Verma’s case as it pertained to a national institution. “Even if the Supreme Court said that the high-power committee must decide, the decision was very, very hasty,” he said. “They should have applied their mind thoroughly, especially as a Supreme Court judge was there. What the CVC says cannot be the final word.”
While both Modi and Justice Sikri voted for Verma’s removal, Kharge filed a dissent note and contested the CVC report. He had also argued that Verma be given an opportunity to present his case before the selection committee.
Patnaik said he has written a letter to the Supreme Court to clarify that the findings of the CVC report are not his, the Telegraph reported.
“My role was that of supervising the inquiry, and for that purpose I just wanted to ensure that the principles of natural justice were followed and Sana’s [businessman Sathish Babu Sana, to whom was attributed the allegation that Verma had taken a bribe] evidence was recorded in my presence,” he wrote. “I ensured that the evidence was correctly recorded.”
Patnaik said he ensured the investigation was completed within 14 days.
Verma resigned from service on Friday after declining to take charge as the director general of Fire Services, Civil Defence, and Home Guards.
‘CBI should be given more independence’
Former Chief Justice of India RM Lodha on Friday said the CBI has to be given independence and needs to be insulated from the political executive, ANI reported. “As long as the political executive continues to have control, whoever is in power, these type of things will occur,” Lodha said on Verma’s removal.
Justice Lodha said successive governments would also influence and use the CBI for their ends, The Indian Express reported. “This came up during the coal scam issue, and it must be followed through – by the courts or by some other method – to ensure the CBI’s independence,” he said.
Justice Lodha, who had referred to the CBI as a “caged parrot”, had criticised the Centre’s alleged control over it while hearing cases related to the coal block allocation scam in May 2013.