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Union minister Arun Jaitley stressed on the need to maintain the institutional integrity of the CBI on a day the investigative agency saw a major shake up over a corruption probe.
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
CBI director Alok Verma and his deputy Rakesh Asthana have been moved out of the agency to maintain the premier investigating agency’s institutional integrity and fairness, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said hours after the government stripped them of their charge.
“Officers under cloud must stand out as interim measure,” Arun Jaitley said, pointing to the allegations and counter-allegations that Alok Verma and Rakesh Asthana had levelled at each other.
“This is in accordance with the highest standards of fairness,” the minister said, asking if the government’s critics wanted two officers facing corruption charges to handle their probes or supervise them.
Jaitley said the Central Vigilance Commission, which supervised the CBI probe in corruption cases, had recommended moving out the two officers.
“The Central Vigilance Commission in its yesterday’s meeting said neither these 2 officers (Alok Verma and Rakesh Asthana) nor any agency under their supervision can investigate charges against them. So the officers will sit out by going on leave. It’s an interim measure,” the minister said, according to news agency ANI.
Opposition parties have attacked the government for removing Alok Verma. Congress’s chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala and other opposition parties attempted to link the development to the opposition pushing for a probe into the Rafale fighter jet deal.
Jaitley said this was “rubbish”.
“The fact that the three opposition parties are saying, that we know what the agency was going to do next, itself casts a serious doubt on the fairness process,” he said.
Alok Verma has challenged the government order removing him from the CBI director’s post after he filed a corruption case against Rakesh Asthana. He was appointed in January 2017. The court has listed the matter for hearing on Friday.
Joint director M Nageswar Rao, a 1986-batch Orissa-cadre officer, who was ordered to take over as acting chief immediately, in his first order, removed the entire team probing the bribery case against Asthana, including Ajay Bassi, the investigation officer (IO) and deputy inspector general Manish Sinha.