SC’s Alok Verma Order: Who Gets What Out of It?
In today’s hearing on Alok Verma’s petition, CJI Ranjan Gogoi produced an order which appears to be fair and balanced. It may have been disappointing for the CBI Director that the apex court did not stay the orders of the Centre and CVC by which they had divested him of his own powers, duties and functions, but the court can still take up that question when it resumes hearing the case on 12 November.
At the same time, the government can be pleased that there has been no interference yet with the decisions taken against Verma, and as of now, their powers of superintendence have not been restricted. It is definitely to Verma’s advantage, however, that the CVC’s inquiry into him (which would have taken place regardless of any stay on the orders) will be supervised by a judge like Justice AK Patnaik, who will ensure that it is completed within the two-week time-frame.
Who Gets What?
On the other hand, Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta, representing the CVC, objected to both these safeguards during proceedings (though he now says he is satisfied with the order). Though CJI Gogoi insisted no inferences should be drawn from Justice Patnaik’s involvement, it is a move that will mean the government and the CVC will have to be careful not to cross any lines.
The fact that the bench also felt the need to restrict what Nageshwar Rao (who has taken over the functions of the CBI Director in the interim) could do, could also be viewed as a rap on the knuckles of the Centre, who appointed him. All decisions taken by him since 23 October are to be submitted in a sealed cover to the SC on 12 November, which means the bench will be scrutinising everything done while Verma has been sidelined, including the transfers of all the officers investigating Rakesh Asthana.
On the whole, while both sides may have bones to pick with the order, the Centre is likely to be more aggrieved, since Verma’s chief grievance – the orders of the CVC and Centre – could still be easily addressed subsequently by the court.