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The Centre, the CVC and the DoPT intervened and made a decision to send the CBI Director and the Special Director on leave.

It is narrated in the petition that Verma had raised objection, at the time of appointment of Mr. Rakesh Asthana as Special Director CBI, when he was consulted by the Appointment Committee of the Cabinet in October 2017, on the ground that Mr. Asthana's name was also figuring in some of the corruption cases which were being investigated by the CBI itself. "The CBI was going to start an inquiry and therefore the prime minister got scared and removed the CBI chief at 1 am in the night", he alleged.

In an unprecedented shake-up in the CBI's 55-year-history, both Mr Verma and his deputy, Special Director Rakesh Asthana, were divested of their powers and sent on leave in a dramatic overnight action by the government Tuesday night. An FIR was registered against Asthana - said to be close to multiple officials at the PMO - by the CBI in a bribery and corruption case a week ago, followed by Asthana's complaint to the CVC in which he alleged that Verma was interfering and impeding his probe in different cases. "I shall then withdraw from all the corruption cases I have filed", he said in a tweet.

The case comes hot on the heels of a raging controversy over the Rafale deal in which the public sector undertaking HAL was allegedly sidelined by the Narendra Modi government in a renegotiated Rs 60,000 crore deal in favour of the Anil Ambani-owned Reliance Defence Limited.

In an order dated 23 October, the appointments committee of the cabinet stated that M. Nageshwar Rao, now serving as joint director of the CBI, had been appointed interim director of the investigative agency.

M Nageswar Rao the man who has been given temporary charge of Alok Verma's role in the CBI cannot take any policy decisions
M Nageswar Rao the man who has been given temporary charge of Alok Verma's role in the CBI cannot take any policy decisions

On these grounds, Verma challenged the government's leave order in the Supreme Court, claiming that the Centre had bypassed established procedures and had therefore "violated the independence of the CBI". More often than not, they become weapons in the hands of the ruling party to silence opposition leaders or coerce them into submission. The CBI was directed to maintain status quo and was also ordered to not arrest Asthana until the next date of hearing.

The fresh team will have Superintendent of Police Satish Dagar and his senior DIG Tarun Gauba, who will report to Joint Director V Murugesan, a CBI order said. The Congress also dubbed the action as "last nail" in the independence of the CBI.

Asthana was heading the SIT that was probing Qureshi's case.

The plea filed by Alok Verma is set to be heard before the Supreme Court on Friday (October 26).


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