Like any Hindi TV daily serial, the story of the high-level bureaucracy in Delhi is becoming murkier every day, and now, it stinks. So far we Indians considered agencies like CBI, CVC, Election Commission above petty party-level politics and free from any political impurity. However, to our surprise, there is room for doubts about shameful nexus between those who are at the helm of the affairs in the departments and agencies and those who are empowered to run the government.
There are some serious differences between bureaucrats in the same or other departments and though such eventualities should be considered natural, the fact that these high-level bureaucrats have started washing their dirty linens of differences in public and the top-level politicians have shamelessly either igniting the fire or playing the role of silent spectators, have messed up the things. The obvious and unfortunate impact is on the entire low-rank bureaucracy who don’t know what to do and from whom should they take orders.
CBI chief quits
In the near past, sacked CBI chief Alok Verma refused to take charge as chief of fire services on Friday and quit — a day after he was removed as boss of the high-profile investigating agency by a panel led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The panel had transferred him to the Fire Services as Director General, after deciding that as CBI chief, he had “not acted with the integrity expected of him.
This is a serious charge that has the potential to defeat the basic purpose of the formation of the ‘independent’ investigation agency. Alok Verma was to retire this month end. “Natural justice was scuttled and the entire process was turned upside down in ensuring that the undersigned is removed from the post of the Director,” he said in a statement.
In a dramatic turn of events, the headache of the CBI was sacked as CBI chief. In October last, Verma had been sent on forced leave by the Narendra Modi government in a midnight swoop in which officers of his team were transferred and an interim director took over. In obvious turn, Verma challenged the decision in the Supreme Court, arguing that he had fixed two-year tenure and only the PM-led selection panel could remove him.
The court cancelled the government’s order but said the selection panel must decide on his status, based on a vigilance report on allegations of bribery raised by his number two officer, Rakesh Asthana. In the three-member panel, Justice AK Sikri — nominated by the Chief Justice of India — voted with PM Modi for Verma’s removal. Congress’s Mallikarjun Kharge, representing the opposition, put up a dissenting note saying that the vigilance inquiry had not found evidence that Mr Verma was guilty of bribery.
In an obvious move, the opposition questioned and bitterly criticised the process, wondering why Verma was not allowed to present his case before the panel. However, defence from the treasury side is quite convincing. According to the Government, Verma had moved the Supreme Court against the Government action to remove him from the post. At that time, the Supreme Court had given him the opportunity to put his side forth and prove his innocence that Verma did through his affidavit.
The government rightfully submitted that since Verma had already given his defense to the highest court of the land, there was no necessity to summon him to defend himself again. Moreover, there is no practice of recording evidences in the Selection Committee meetings so far. Thus, the government seems to be within its right and practice to transfer Verma from the CBI to another agency.
Stating that he had an unblemished record, Verma said: “The decisions made on Thursday will not just be a reflection on my functioning but will become a testimony on how the CBI as an institution will be treated by any government through the CVC (Central Vigilance Commission), who is appointed by the majority members of the ruling government. This is a moment of collective introspection. Since the government’s unprecedented action comes just prior to the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections due in April-May this year, it is bound to have direct and indirect impact on the political arena and, in turn, on the minds of the electorate.
Flutters of bureaucracy
Modi has been, of late, witnessing flutters in the bureaucracy. Whether the resignations and appointments of Governors of the Reserve Bank of India, Chief Vigilance Commissioner (CVC), CBI or Governors of States, Modi, allegedly has brought in his ‘own men’ by removing or humiliating those so far occupying the positions. Though people in general are not so much bothered about who occupies these seats of power, these developments do make impact on their life and that is likely to reflect in the voting pattern.
To sum up, Modi has taken care to be within his right and law-limitations while taking action against the top boss of the CBI, who was considered to be his choice two years ago. It may be recalled that the Congress had bitterly criticised Verma’s appointment. The same party is now vehemently supporting Verma’s argument for obvious reasons. The question, however, is that is it enough in political life to be legally correct or you should be ethically correct, too?
Bharatkumar Raut is a political analyst and former Member of Parliament (RS).