New Delhi – In another slap on the federal Indian right-wing Hindu nationalist government of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by populist Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India’s Supreme Court reinstated the top federal investigation agency chief who was suspended in a dramatic midnight decision in October.
The Indian Supreme Court in its decision noted that there was no “provision” for the government to “divest the powers” of Alok Verma of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Although it ruled in his favor, the Supreme Court said that Verma could not take “major policy decisions” until the investigation of corruption cases against him was completed.
Verma and his deputy Rakesh Asthana were both relieved of their duties pending an inquiry after he and his deputy both accused each other of corruption. Verma immediately challenged the decision in the highest court of the land. Asthana, the deputy too had appealed against his suspension but his challenge is still pending in the Delhi High Court.
There were welcoming voices on the decision from the US and tweets of welcome from Indian opposition parties as the latter had accused the government of overreach and interference in the CBI’s internal matters.
Eminent US attorney Ravi Batra from New York told IAT, “Without meddling in the internal affairs of another nation, as a matter of general principle: in a nation of laws, the Supreme Court has the final word.” Noting his status as “an American of Indian ancestry,” Attorney Batra wished India well “as she grapples with the cancer of corruption.”
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, an IIT Kharagpur alumnus, described the verdict as a “direct indictment” of Prime Minister Modi while Rahul Gandhi, president of the Indian main opposition party Congress tweeted: “Congratulations to the SC for upholding the law.”
Earlier in October last year, the sudden decision to remove both Verma and Asthana from office was unprecedented and shocked India. The Modi government announced the move after a midnight meeting that was called amid an escalating public spat between the two men.
Verma filed a complaint against his deputy Asthana, accusing him of taking a bribe of $409,000 (30 million Indian Rupees) from a businessman who was being investigated by the agency. Raising red flags of being framed, Asthana in retaliation, told the government that it was Verma who had taken the bribe from the same individual. Verma denied the charges.
The government responded by placing both them and several other officials on “indefinite leave”. Both their offices were sealed and another officer immediately took over as interim chief of the agency.