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Taking Alok Verma off his duties not a transfer, says Centre

Attorney-General says there is nothing to back his claim

The government on Thursday argued that the mid-tenure divestment of Alok Kumar Verma from the functions and duties of CBI Director on October 23 does not amount to a “transfer.”

Appearing before a Bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal countered arguments raised by Mr. Verma that the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act of 1946 required the government to get the prior approval of the selection committee led by the Prime Minister before “transferring” or withdrawing work from the CBI Director.

Mr. Venugopal said there is nothing to back Mr. Verma’s claim that he has been “transferred.”

“There is no change in his status, he continues to get the perquisites of his office, the same official residence, same staff and car. All is intact. Can he claim he has been transferred?” Mr. Verma’s counsel Fali Nariman said this was worse than transfer.

The court adjourned the hearing to Wednesday.

Mr. Nariman contended that the “deprivation of all his powers” as CBI Director and the appointment of M. Nageshwar Rao, acting CBI chief, could not have been done by the CVC and the government without first obtaining the recommendation of the high-power committee.

Mr. Nariman said the denudation of powers from Mr. Verma indeed amounted to a ‘transfer’ under the 1946 Act.

He said the term ‘transfer’ meant the “making over a right or responsibility to another”, and that was what exactly happened on the intervening night of October 23-24, which senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan described as the “night of the long knives.”

‘Govt. is final authority’

The AG argued that the government was the ‘final authority’ in appointing a CBI chief. The high-power committee led by the Prime Minister became functus officio (lapsed) after recommending his name and there was no question of going back to it.

The court said it had gone through the CVC inquiry report into the allegations against Mr. Verma, but would not take it up for examination now.

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