NEW DELHI: Making a crucial revelation in the ongoing Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) conflict, The Wire today reported that the Central Vigilance Commissioner K V Chowdary had asked the now-sacked CBI Director Alok Verma to withdraw his “adverse comments” about his deputy Rakesh Asthana.
According to the report, sources close to Justice A K Patnaik – the retired judge appointed to supervise CVC’s probe against Verma by the Supreme Court – have said that the Chowdary had met Verma at the latter’s residence, and had made the “unusual request” to retrieve the comments in Asthana’s annual confidential report (ACR). Verma had submitted the details of this meeting to Patnaik in writing, in which, he has reportedly revealed that Chowdary promised that “everything will be ok” if the comments are removed.
Chowdary wanted Verma to change the conclusion he had noted in Asthana’s ACR – that he was an officer of “doubtful integrity” – which would act as an ineffaceable roadblock in the path to Asthana’s promotion.
The said meeting took place – The Wire reported – when the fight between the two officers had broken out in the CBI and when Verma had to take a call on making top PMO bureaucrat Bhaskar Khulbe, an accused in the coal scam, something that Asthana had resisted.
The report added, “His visit to Verma’s was not the first time Chowdary had batted for Asthana. When a controversy had broken out on the controversial officer’s appointment as special director in the CBI and it had become clear that Alok Verma was going to object to his selection in writing, Chowdary pushed through Asthana’s appointment. Officials say that top PMO bureaucrat P.K. Mishra had summoned the Central Vigilance Chowdary, and directed him to ensure Asthana was appointed.”
This disclosure comes at an important juncture as on January 10, the prime minister-led three-member panel had removed Verma as the CBI chief based on a report CVC had submitted following an inquiry against Verma – based on allegations of corruption by Asthana. Interestingly, the CBI director was removed within 48 hours of the Supreme Court order that had reinstated him, although with limited powers. The panel had issued a transfer order to appoint Verma as the director-general, fire services, civil defence and home guards. Following these developments Verma has tendered his resignation, in which, he claimed that Patnaik and CVC are not on the same page.
Confirming this, Patnaik too has distanced himself from the CVC report – which became the grounds for removal of Verma. A report in The Indian Express on Saturday said that the CVC probe supervisor has refuted the claim of corruption made against Verma. He was quoted as saying, “There was no evidence against Verma regarding corruption. The entire enquiry was held on Asthana’s complaint. I have said in my report that none of the findings in the CVC’s report are mine.”
He added that “what the CVC says can not be the final word”.
With this disclosure, the waters have now become even murkier. The BJP government at the Centre has been accused of being in a desperate haste to remove Verma – whose term was scheduled to end on January 31 anyway – as Verma was reportedly trying to get the dirt on the government related to the highly controversial Rafale scam, claims the Opposition. The decision to remove Verma – which Patnaik has called a hasty one – in an election year seems like a desperate attempt by the BJP government to suppress the multi-crore scam, it has been alleged.