NEW DELHI: The Central Vigilance Commission is well within its rights to probe allegations against a CBI director, who is bound by conduct rules for All India services, former senior officers of the agency opined Thursday.
The ex-officers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity as they felt that any comments from them will be seen as taking sides, said when it comes to allegations of corruption the Commission can carry out inquiry against all India service officers.
However, this position is not supported by senior advocate Prashant Bhushan and opposition parties including the Congress.
Bhushan has challenged the decision of the government in the Supreme Court through an NGO Common cause.
The matter will come up for hearing on Friday.
The petition filed by Bhushan said, "Even if there is allegation of corruption against Verma, as stated in the removal order, the CVC, in the guise of power of superintendence, could not have withdrawn the work from the Director CBI and handed over to a new officer without the consent of the committee comprising the Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition and the Chief Justice of India."
The impugned orders make it apparent that the aforesaid decisions have been taken without consultation with the aforementioned selection committee as is mandated by the law.
It further said that "neither Verma could have been divested with the work nor could Rao (M Nageswar Rao who is taking care of the work of agency chief) have been asked to take over the charge of the Director CBI and function as interim Director without consulting the Selection Committee mentioned in amended Section 4 A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act".
Congress president Rahul Gandhi Thursday termed the move of the government "illegal" and alleged that it was done as the government panicked over the possibility of him investigating the Rafale jet deal.
Addressing a press conference, he said that Verma being divested of his powers was an "insult" to the Constitution, the chief justice of India and the leader of the opposition.
The former officers, some of whom have served as directors of the agency, felt the CVC is mandated under the law to monitor the cases of corruption being probed by the agency but it cannot dictate how they should be investigated, they said.
Another issue is the alleged defiance of CVC orders for the production of files which in turn is broadly covered in the violation of All India Services Conduct Rules, they said.
After allegations that in certain instances cases were being compromised for alleged illicit considerations, it was incumbent upon the anti-corruption watchdog to seek records of those cases to arrive at a decision but the records were not provided as per the version of the CVC, they said.
According to Section 11 of the CVC Act, the Commission has powers of a civil court in summoning any record which were invoked by it but the CBI did not provide files sought by it.
The CBI director has a fixed tenure of two years making him immune from pulls and pressures but is bound by the rules governing the conduct of All India Services officers of which he is part of, they said.
It would have been difficult for the CVC to carry out investigation into allegations of corruption against the CBI director with him being in the chair so the Commission recommended to divest him of his powers, the former officers said.
They said both the officers -- CBI director Alok Verma and Special Director Rakesh Asthana -- are retaining their positions, perks and salaries but they cannot exercise their powers so that the CVC can carry out its investigation.
The former officers were of the view that the CVC should have been provided with the records and the director should have facilitated that, they said.
In recommending divestment of the powers of Verma, the CVC has taken note of allegations which are "serious" in nature having "prima facie vigilance angle".
The order has been issued under Section 8(1)(a) and 8(1)(B) of the CVC Act and Section 4(1) of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946 (DSPE) which governs the CBI.
Section 8(1)(a) and (b) of the CVC Act empowers the Commission to exercise superintendence over the functioning of CBI and to give directions to it.
Section 4(1) of the DSPE Act vests power of Superintendence upon the CBI with the CVC.