Congress president Rahul Gandhi today refused to react to a Supreme Court order that the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) complete its probe against CBI Director Alok Verma in two weeks, instead opting to reiterate allegations of crony capitalism against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
"It's a Supreme Court judgement, a process that is being carried out. I don't want to comment on it," Mr Gandhi told reporters outside the Lodhi Road police station, where he was briefly detained in connection with a party protest outside the CBI headquarters. "But I will say that the Prime Minister acted against the CBI Director as a result of panic, as a result of fear, because he has helped Mr Anil Ambani make Rs 30,000 crore."
The Congress president was referring to the Rafale fighter jet deal, which was awarded to industrialist Anil Ambani's Reliance Group even though it is believed to have little experience in manufacturing defence aircraft. The opposition has alleged that Mr Verma was stripped of all his powers on Tuesday night because he was on the verge of conducting a probe into the Rafale deal, much to the government's displeasure. Even Mr Verma, in his petition to the Supreme Court, said that the autonomy of the central probe agency was being compromised, and that the government was unhappy with "certain investigations into high functionaries not taking a desirable direction".
Days before being sent on forced leave, the CBI chief had accepted a written request to probe the Rafale deal from lawyer Prashant Bhushan and former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie in a meeting that reportedly upset the government. "Understand the PM's mental state... he knows a CBI probe will affect his political prospects... PM Modi has resorted to corruption, and he is now scared," Mr Gandhi said at a press conference yesterday.
The government, however, maintains that action was taken against Mr Verma to help the CVC investigate bribery allegations against him without any hindrance. Even CBI spokesperson Abhishek Dayal denied that Mr Verma was considering taking up the Rafale probe when he was divested of his powers by the Centre. "This is being manufactured by vested interests. Every file in the CBI at each level is accounted for," he said yesterday.
Earlier today, the Supreme Court ruled against interim CBI chief M Nageswar Rao making policy decisions and indicated that that any actions taken up by him -- including a mass transfer of CBI officers -- will be scrutinised. It also asked a former top court judge, Justice AK Patnaik, to supervise the investigation against Mr Verma.
Disclaimer: NDTV has been sued for 10,000 crores by Anil Ambani's Reliance Group for its coverage of the Rafale deal.