SC Hearing on CBI Dir Alok Verma’s Plea Tomorrow: What to Expect?
On Thursday, 29 November, the Supreme Court will hold its next hearing on the petition filed by CBI Director Alok Verma challenging the divestment of his powers by the government and the CVC.
Catch all the live updates on the hearing here.
The Previous Hearing
At the previous hearing on 20 November, Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi (who is hearing the case along with Justices SK Kaul and KM Joseph) had been furious with Verma's legal team, because of articles in the news media that appeared to violate the court's orders for documents relating to the case to be kept confidential. As a result, the hearing was deferred by nine days.
He first referred to an article in The Wire that he said included Verma's responses to the CVC investigation report on him, which was supposed to be provided in a sealed cover to the court the previous day. It was later clarified that The Wire's article dealt with Verma's responses to the CVC questionnaire, not the report, for which there had been no court order.
However, CJI Gogoi then handed over two other articles to Verma's senior lawyer Fali Nariman, which also seemed to indicate a lack of respect for the Supreme Court. These articles referred to an application filed in the case by MK Sinha, a CBI officer who alleged the involvement of senior government officials in the fiasco.
The hearing on Thursday, 29 November, comes over a month after Verma first approached the apex court.
Verma, whose two-year term as CBI Director expires in January 2019, has argued that the government and the CVC had no authority to take action against him as his post has special legal protection, and the proper procedures were not followed.
The CVC's two-week investigation, which was monitored by retired SC judge AK Patnaik, has not been made public. But according to CJI Gogoi's comments, the report is "uncomplimentary" in some aspects to Verma, and recommends further investigation of some issues.
What Can We Expect?
Based on Verma's responses, the CJI will decide whether or not to allow the status quo to continue and let the CVC probe further, or reject calls for a further probe and reinstate Verma. This would also require an assessment of the government's power to take action against Verma in the first place back in October.
While the court order came on 26 October, after a number of decisions had already been made, including the transfers of the officers investigating Rakesh Asthana, these will also be reviewed by the judges.
It is unclear at this point as to whether all of these issues will be considered on 29 November, but at the least, the judges are likely to take some action relating to the CVC's recommendation to probe Verma further.