CBI vs CBI: What Angered CJI Gogoi During Alok Verma’s Hearing
The Supreme Court on Tuesday, 20 November, expressed strong displeasure over the leak of CBI Director Alok Verma's confidential reply in the media. The top court adjourned the hearing in Verma’s case to 29 November even after hearing the clarifications by his lawyers.
The court was hearing Verma's plea against the government’s decision to divest him of his duties and sending him on leave.
WHAT HAPPENED IN COURT ON 20 NOVEMBER
A bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices SK Kaul and KM Joseph handed over to senior advocate Fali S Nariman, appearing for Verma, the copy of a report by news portal The Wire, which has published the CBI director's response.
The senior lawyer said the news portal and its journalists concerned be summoned as the press should be free and responsible.
The court was also upset that one of Verma’s counsel, Gopal Sankarnarayan, appealed seeking additional time on 19 November without the authorisation of senior advocate Nariman.
WHAT THE WIRE REPORT SAID
Although it is not confirmed which news report by The Wire was referred to during the hearing, the portal has clarified in their article containing Verma’s response to the questionnaire sent by the CVC during the probe.
According to the report, Verma, in his response to the CVC, alleged that his deputy Rakesh Asthana complained against him only after the CBI booked Asthana on bribery charges.
In his reply, Verma also hinted at probable support received by Asthana and CVC commissioner KV Chowdary from a "top official” at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) in going after him, The Wire reported.
HOW THE WIRE CLARIFIED
The news portal, in their clarification, said, “ This is to clarify that @thewire_in stories were on Alok Verma’s responses to questions the CVC put to him. These were not in a sealed cover and were not meant for the SC. As for his response to CVC’s final report, handed over to SC in sealed cover, we haven’t seen/reported that.”
WHAT VERMA’S LAWYERS CLARIFIED
CJI Gogoi, after finishing the matters on the list, allowed Nariman to appear before him, but only to provide him with two more articles which he felt indicated problematic leaks of information in the media.
He refused to hear any arguments, including Nariman's attempt to show that The Wire's article dealt with responses to the CVC's questions and not the inquiry report.
The two freshly-presented articles reportedly include those about CBI officer MK Sinha's explosive application to the court that to be impleaded in Verma's case, which has serious allegations against senior government officials.
There was a bitter exchange in court between Nariman and Gopal Sankarnarayan over the 'unauthorised' mentioning of the case. The CJI and Justice SK Kaul objected to how information was being shared about the case despite the court's efforts to keep things confidential.