Exiled CBI Director Alok Verma said that he could be removed only with the approval of a panel that selected him as the Supreme Court today heard his petition against forced leave.
The government's order stripping him of charges had no basis, his lawyer Fali Nariman argued before top court judges, adding that a "government order cannot stand in the absence of permission from the committee".
The CBI Director was appointed on February 1, 2017 and "the position of law is that there will be a fixed tenure of two years and this gentleman cannot be even transferred," Mr Nariman told the court.
Justice KM Joseph questioned, "What if the CBI chief is caught red-handed accepting bribe?" Mr Nariman replied: "The centre should come to court or go to the committee."
Attorney General KK Venugopal, appearing for the centre, told the court that the government was the final authority in the CBI Director's appointment. "There is a significant difference between selecting a candidate and appointing one... that after selection, the committee loses its control on the appointee and so there is no question of the committee being reconvened for a transfer," Mr Venugopal said.
He also told the court that Alok Verma "continues to hold the status of Director, and enjoys all privileges and benefits of the post till date", and that there was nothing to suggest that he had been transferred.
The top court adjourned the hearing for December 5.
The Supreme Court had refused to take up the case in the previous hearing on November 20, furious over leaks to the media.
The case is centred on corruption charges swapped by two bosses of the country's top investigating agency, Alok Verma and his deputy Rakesh Asthana.
"None of you deserve a hearing," the top court had said, flagging media reports on a report that had been submitted in a sealed cover.
Alok Verma has petitioned the top court against the government's decision to strip him of his powers and send him on compulsory leave. The Central Vigilance Commission has submitted its report on corruption allegations against him to the court.
The Supreme Court has said the CBI chief has not been given a clean chit in the vigilance report. The report is "complimentary on some charges, not-so-complimentary on some charges and very uncomplimentary on some charges," the court has told Mr Verma.
The CBI Director has been accused by his deputy Rakesh Asthana of taking bribe from a Hyderabad-based businessman being investigated by the agency. Mr Verma has accused Mr Asthana of the same crime.
As the CBI's top two accused each other of corruption, they were both sent on forced leave and several officers investigating Mr Asthana were transferred on the night of October 23.
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