SC To Hear CBI Chief’s Plea Today  

NEW DELHI —As the CBI deals with an unprecedented internal crisis, all eyes are on the Supreme Court tomorrow when its Director Alok Verma’s plea against the Centre’s order divesting him of duties and sending him on leave is slated to come up, amid high drama Thursday over the presence of IB officers outside his official residence here.

Ahead of the hearing in the apex court, the CBI clarified Verma and Rakesh Asthana, who are locked in a bitter feud that triggered the crisis, will remain its Director and Special Director, in a bid to stress they were not removed from their posts. Both Verma and Astana were stripped of their powers and sent on leave by the Centre on the intervening night of Wednesday and Thursday.

The statement by a CBI spokesman in which it was also said appointment of Joint Director M Nageshwar Rao to discharge the duties of the agency director was only an interim arrangement came amid an escalating attack by Congress president Rahul Gandhi on the Modi government over the crisis in the country’s premier probe agency.

The spokesman said the arrangement will continue until the Central Vigilance Commission(CVC) decides on its probe into graft allegations against the CBI’s top two officers.

Addressing a poll rally in Rajasthan and a news conference later in Delhi, Gandhi said forcing Verma to go on indefinite leave was “illegal” and alleged it was done as the government “panicked” over the possibility of him investigating the controversial Rafale jet deal.

Senior BJP leader Prakash Javadekar rejected as “manufactured lie” Gandhi’s charge that government panicked over the possibility of him investigating the Rafale deal.

At a news conference, the union minister also emphatically said that the CBI chief was not removed and only sent on leave.

In a veiled reference to Nageswara Rao, Gandhi also alleged that the interim charge of the agency has been given to a person who has cases against him so that the prime minister can control him.

In a related development, the Supreme Court said it would consider according urgent hearing to a PIL seeking court-monitored SIT probe into the allegations of corruption against various CBI officials, including Asthana.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi considered the submission of lawyer Prashant Bhushan, appearing for NGO ‘Common Cause’ that there were wider issues of corruption affecting the probe agency and the PIL needed to be heard urgently.

In his legal challenge before the apex court, Verma also sought stay of the Centre’s order asking him to proceed on leave and giving interim charge of his post to Rao, a 1986 batch Odisha-cadre IPS officer.

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