- Says top court order on exiled CBI chief's plea "extremely positive"
- Says recent developments have "eroded the reputation of the CBI"
- Congress, however, says Supreme Court order a blow for centre
The Supreme Court order for a time-bound inquiry against exiled CBI chief Alok Verma was an "extremely positive development", Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today said, adding that it was in the best interest of the country that the truth comes out. "All officers of the CBI, particularly the top two, are like Caesar's wife and must be beyond suspicion," Mr Jaitley said, justifying the government's move to send Mr Verma and his deputy Rakesh Asthana on leave after they accused each other of corruption in an unprecedented public feud.
He said that recent developments have "eroded the reputation of the CBI" and the government's move came in "larger national interest".
The government had sent Mr Verma and Mr Asthana on leave and appointed a temporary head of the CBI late night on Tuesday. Hearing Mr Verma's case against the decision today, the Supreme Court said a vigilance inquiry against him should be completed in two weeks and monitored by an ex-judge.
"The Supreme Court's direction setting a two-week time frame would further strengthen the fairness criteria of the investigations...and the appointment of a retired judge would ensure a fair inquiry," the Finance Minister said.
The expression 'Caesar's wife must be above suspicion' - drawn from a 16th-century Shakespearean drama - is used to imply that people in high positions must have impeccable integrity.
Arun Jaitley's remarks came as opposition parties led by Congress President Rahul Gandhi protested outside the CBI headquarters in Delhi against the government's move and what it called attempts to control and undermine the investigating agency. Mr Gandhi and other leaders also walked into a police station and turned themselves in.
The Congress said the Modi government's "sinister attempt" to capture the CBI through "lackeys" has fallen flat after the Supreme Court's order that also barred interim director M Nageswar Rao from taking any major policy decision.
"Truth prevails in Supreme Court. Modi Government's sinister attempt to capture CBI through lackeys falls flat. A slap in face of tyrants who wanted to pin the last nail in CBI's independence. CVC can't act as Modi Government's pawn but would be supervised by a SC judge to act fairly," Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said on Twitter.
The clash within the CBI escalated last week after Mr Verma launched an investigation against his deputy, accusing him of taking bribe from a businessman on the agency's radar. Mr Asthana, CBI's Special Director, fired back at his boss with the same charge, alleging it was Alok Verma who had taken bribe from the same businessman.
(With inputs from PTI and IANS)