"PM Ensures CBI 'Buried, Dead'": Opposition On Top 2 Being Sent On Leave

The late-night development, however, was termed as "illegal", a "shoddy cover-up" and "panic move" by opposition parties

'PM Ensures CBI 'Buried, Dead'': Opposition On Top 2 Being Sent On Leave

The government order will be challenged by Alok Verma in the Supreme Court.

New Delhi:

Amid corruption allegations and counter-allegations by CBI chief Alok Verma and his deputy Rakesh Asthana, the duo have been sent on leave along with a few senior officers. The country's top investigating agency will now have M Nageswar Rao as the interim director. The CBI chief has challenged the order in the Supreme Court, which has listed the hearing for Friday.

The decision was taken following a recommendation by the country's top vigilance officer that the top two officers be sent on "compulsory wait", stripped of all responsibilities. Sources say Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had summoned both Alok Verma and Rakesh Asthana over the crisis, agreed with the recommendation.

The late-night development, however, was termed as "illegal", a "shoddy cover-up" and "panic move" by opposition parties. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has rubbished the opposition's charge and said, "We are not going to pre-judge who is guilty. If they are innocent they will come back."

The Congress had posted on Twitter, "While the PMO is busy picking sides in the CBI battle, the only losers are the people of India - having lost another institution to the deplorable autocratic antics of the BJP govt."

On the opposition's attack that the government is trying to protect Rakesh Asthana -- a Gujarat cadre officer dubbed the Prime Minister's "blue-eyed boy" by Congress chief Rahul Gandhi -- Mr Jaitley said, "During an investigation, red eyes or blue eyes don't matter... it is the evidence that matters."

Congress's national spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said it's illegal to interfere in the tenure of the CBI director.

In a series of tweets, senior Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala called it a "systematic dismantling of CBI". "Modi Govt buries the 'last nail' into the independence of CBI. Systematic dismantling & denigrating of CBI is now complete. Once a premier investigating agency, PM ensures that CBI's integrity, credibility & reliability is 'buried & dead'," he said.

"The illegal removal of CBI Chief by Modi government to protect their own handpicked officer, against whom serious charges of corruption are being investigated, points to attempts at a serious cover-up to protect his direct links to the BJP's top political leadership," tweeted CPI (M) leader Sitaram Yechury.

The government has also been accused of "protecting" fugitives like Nirav Modi, Vijay Mallya and going after people who act against the corrupt.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, too, tweeted about the "unfortunate" development.

Lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan claims that the order is an attempt to "protect Rakesh Asthana from investigation" and "prevent" Alok Verma from probing the controversial Rafale fighter jet deal.

"Apart from protecting Asthana from investigation, the Rafale complaint by Shourie, Sinha & myself, entertained by the CBI Director, must be another reason for the Govt to remove him with such alacrity by this midnight order," Mr Bhushan alleged.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also attacked the government and wondered if there was a "co-relation between the Rafale deal and removal of Alok Verma". "Was Alok Verma about to start investigations into Rafale, which cud become problem for Modi ji?" the AAP chief tweeted.

Alok Verma cannot be removed before his fixed two-year term as CBI director without a meeting of a group that includes the PM, Chief Justice and leader of opposition, said lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan.

Disclaimer: NDTV has been sued for 10,000 crores by Anil Ambani's Reliance Group for its coverage of the Rafale deal.

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