– by Shruti Sinha
In the Supreme Court of India
|NAME OF THE CASE||Alok Kumar Verma v Union of India & Anr.|
|CITATION||Writ Petition (C) No. 1309 with 1315 of 2018|
|DATE OF JUDGEMENT||January 08, 2019|
|PETITIONER/APPELLATE||Alok Kumar Verma|
|RESPONDENT||Union of India and Anr.|
|JUDGE/BENCH||Justice Ranjan Gogoi (CJI), Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Justice K.M. Joseph|
|CONSTITUTION/STATUTES INVOLVED||Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946; The General Clauses Act, 1897; Central Vigilance Commission Act, 2003; Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013; Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988|
|IMPORTANT ARTICLES/SECTIONS INVOLVED||Section 4A(1), 4B(2) of Delhi Special Police Establishment Act; Section 14, 15, 16 of The General Clauses Act; Section 8(1)(a), 8(1)(b), 4, 6, 11 of Central Vigilance Commission Act, 2003|
Two Writ Petitions had been filed before the Hon’ble Supreme Court – one by Mr. Alok Kumar Verma, the accused, and the other by the Common Cause NGO – challenging the three orders by the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) and the Government of India that had alleged Mr. Verma of corruption and had divested him from his position as the Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
The case of Alok Verma v Union of India with Common Cause v Union of India had led to an important decision by the Supreme Court whereby the three-judge bench had unanimously set aside the orders of the CVC and the government and had restored the position of Mr. Alok Verma, the Petitioner, as the Director of the CBI, elucidating and preserving the spirit of legislative intent, with its judgement, that shall not be breached by any authority or the State.
Owing to the Complaint, dated 24/08/2018, submitted by the Cabinet Secretary via Letter, dated 31/08/2018, to the CVC, an Order had been passed by the CVC on 23/10/2018, divesting Mr. Alok Kumar Verma, Director, CBI, of “the powers, functions, duties, supervisory role, etc. vested in him as the Director of the CBI.”2 The Order had been signed by the Central Vigilance Commissioner along with two other Vigilance Commissioners, and had been passed under Section 8(1)(a) and 8(1)(b) of the Central Vigilance Commission Act (CVC Act), 2003 read with Section 4(1) of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act (DSPE Act), 1946 as an interim action till the completion of the inquiry for the allegations, mentioned in the aforesaid Complaint, as per the Prevention of Corruption Act (PC Act), 1988. The divestment had been reiterated via another Order, dated the same day, by the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, Department of Personnel and Training, Government of India, which had also passed one more Order that day to further appoint Mr. M. Nageshwar Rao, IPS, Joint Director, CBI to discharge the duties and functions of the Director, CBI. These three orders, one by the CVC and two by the Central Government, had been challenged in the two Petitions submitted before the Apex Court. In addition to that, the Petition filed by the Common Cause NGO had also prayed for the removal of Mr. Rakesh Asthana, Director, CBI and the constitution of a Special Investigating Team (SIT) to inquire into the charges of corruption against the CBI officials and the FIR lodged against Mr. Asthana.
- Whether the CVC has the authority to divest CBI personnel from duty for investigation?
- Whether such action violates the DSPE Act?
- Whether the action against the CBI Director violates the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court in the case of Vineet Narain v Union of India?
Arguments from the Petitioner side
- Learned Counsel on the behalf of the Petitioners had submitted that the interpretation of the relevant statutes shall adhere to the views of the Vineet Narain4 case and must “preserve, maintain and further the integrity, independence and majesty” of the CBI. In that view, it had been submitted that hence, the Director shall be given an insulated tenure of a minimum of two years if the CBI is to perform its duties up to its potential and without any hindrance. This is how the CVC Act and the DSPE Act, according to the Learned Counsels, must be interpreted.
- It had also been submitted that Section 4B(2) of the DSPE Act, regarding the transfer of the Director, states that the divestment Order cannot happen without the previous consent of the Committee. For its relevance, this Section shall be interpreted in “the broadest perspective”2 to include all the attempts to move or remove the Director, in addition to the ordinary meaning of transfer. Otherwise, the legislative intent shall be rendered futile and inconsistent with the guidelines laid down in the guidelines of the Vineet Narain4 case.
- Lastly, it had been argued that such action had been invalid as there had been no justification for the premature curtailment of the said tenure of the Director, CBI.
Arguments from the Respondent side
- Learned Counsel from the Respondent side had contended that the role of the Committee under Section 4A(1) of the DSPE Act is limited to making recommendations for the appointment by the Central Government and has no legal role after that, citing the cases of Shankarsan Dash v Union of India and Jai Singh Dalal v State of Haryana, and added that the requirement of previous consent comes only in the cases of transfers and nothing else.
- It had further been contended that the Central Government has adequate authority to divest the Director, CBI as per Section 16 of the General Clauses Act, 1897. It had been observed that if the Government can appoint a servant, it has the authority to remove him as well.
- It had also been argued that merely because a member of the Indian Police Service is appointed as the Director, CBI, he shall remain the same and such position does not make him immune to any disciplinary control by the competent authority.
Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946
Section 4A. Committee for appointment of Director.—
- The Central Government shall appoint the Director on the recommendation of the Committee consisting of:—
- the Central Vigilance Commissioner Chairperson;
- Vigilance Commissioners Members;
- Secretary to the Government of India in-charge of the Ministry of Home Affairs in the Central Government Member;
Section 4B. Terms and conditions of service of Director.—
- The Director shall, notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in the rules relating to his conditions of service, continue to hold office for a period of not less than two years from the date on which he assumes office.
- The Director shall not be transferred except with the previous consent of the Committee referred to in sub-section (1) of section 4A.
The General Clauses Act, 1897
Section 14. Powers conferred to be exercisable from time to time.
- Where, by any 24 [Central Act] or Regulation made after the commencement of this Act, any power is conferred 25 [***], then 26 [unless a different intention appears] that power may be exercised from time to time as occasion requires.
- This section applies also to all 24 [Central Acts] and Regulations made on or after the fourteenth day of January, 1887.
Section 15. Power to appoint to include power to appoint ex officio. Where, by any 27 [Central Act] or Regulation, a power to appoint any person to fill any office or execute any function is conferred, then, unless it is otherwise expressly provided, any such appointment, if it is made after the commencement of this Act, may be made either by name or by virtue of office.
Section 16. Power to appoint to include power to suspend or dismiss. Where, by any 28 [Central Act] or Regulation, a power to make any appointment is conferred, then, unless a different intention appears, the authority having 29 [for the time being] power to make the appointment shall also have power to suspend or dismiss any person appointed 30 [whether by itself or any other authority] in exercise of that power.
Central Vigilance Commission Act, 2003
Section 8. Functions and powers of Central Vigilance Commission.—
- The functions and powers of the Commission shall be to—
- exercise superintendence over the functioning of the Delhi Special Police Establishment insofar as it relates to the investigation of offences alleged to have been committed under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 (49 of 1988), or an offence with which a public servant specified in sub-section (2) may, under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974), be charged at the same trial;
- give directions to the Delhi Special Police Establishment for the purpose of discharging the responsibility entrusted to it under sub-section (1) of section 4 of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946 (25 of 1946): Provided that while exercising the powers of superintendence under clause (a) or giving directions under this clause, the Commission shall not exercise powers in such a manner so as to require the Delhi Special Police Establishment to investigate or dispose of any case in a particular manner;
Giving due consideration to the rationale of both sides, the three-judge bench had unanimously given the judgement to quash the three Orders challenged, dispose of the Petitions and the Interlocutory Applications (IA), and reinstate the Petitioner-Alok Kumar Verma as the Director of the CBI. Regarding this, the Apex Court had explained that the CVC and the government did not have the authority to pass the impugned Orders as that shall be inconsistent with the intent of the legislation and by doing such, the institution of CBI shall suffer from extraneous influence. The Hon’ble Court had further observed that if there had been a legislative intent to confer any authority to remove the Director for investigation charges as an interim measure, such provisions would have been duly drafted in the statutes. Furthermore, the provisions of the CVC Act and the DSPE Act state the requirement of prior permission from the Committee under the DSPE Act before passing such Orders. The IAs had been dismissed because they had followed the same prayers as those in the Petitions, so there had been no need to examine them separately. The Supreme Court had ordered the Committee under Section 4A(1) of DSPE to examine the matter within a week from the date of this order. However, despite the restoration of Mr. Verma as the Director, CBI, his role had been confined to exercising routine powers and he had been barred from taking any fresh initiative regarding any major policy or institutional implications.
It had rightfully been remarked by the CJI Ranjan Gogoi at the start of this judgement that “the Rule of Law is the bedrock of democracy”2 and to aptly abide by that principle, the interpretation of the said law must also be proper and fair. Every now and then there come cases marred with vices like ultra vires usage of power or excessive delegation by the very authority created to curb these vices, and in the face of the injustice that they cause, it is the duty of the judiciary to check and provide recourse. The judgement of Alok Kumar v Union of India had aptly addressed such concerns in light of the appropriate interpretation of the legislative intent, and that is the mark of a brilliant judiciary system; it had also provided courses of action to further eliminate any inconsistencies.
 Author is a 1st Year Student of Government Law College, Mumbai
 Alok Verma v Union of India, (2019) 2 SCC (Cri) 64
 Common Cause v Union of India & Ors., 2019 SCC Online SC 23
 Vineet Narain v Union of India, (1998) 1 SCC 226
 Shankarsan Dash v Union of India, (1991) 3 SCC 47
 Jai Singh Dalal and Ors. v State of Haryana and Ors., 1993 Supp. (2) SCC 600
 Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946, Central Government Act (India)
 The General Clauses Act, 1897, Central Government Act (India)
 Central Vigilance Commission Act, 2003, Central Government Act (India)