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On first day back, CBI chief Alok Verma cancels transfers of loyalists – Times of India

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NEW DELHI: CBI director Alok Verma, back from forced leave after the Supreme Court reinstated him, immediately undid transfers of officers, including those considered close to him, who had been shunted out and were involved in probing his estranged number two, special director Rakesh Asthana.

Those whose transfers were rescinded included deputy SP A K Bassi, superintendent of police S S Gurm, DIG M K Sinha and joint director A K Sharma. These officers were investigating Asthana at the time the government sent him and Verma on leave after their long-simmering feud burst into the open.

Verma’s decisions suggest he is readying to confront the government, and is willing to argue that the transfers do not violate the “cease and desist” order of the SC that asked him not to take any policy decision. The move to bring back the officers, even as the report of the Central Vigilance Commission on allegations levelled against him by Asthana have not been disposed of, indicates he is ready for a showdown.

The CBI director may, however, not be able to initiate action on the complaint filed by lawyer Prashant Bhushan and former BJP leaders Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie in the Rafale deal as the SC has given a clean chit to the transaction.

It was DIG M K Sinha who had, in a petition in the SC, named national security adviser Ajit K Doval, minister of state Haribhai Parthibhai Chaudhary and CVC K V Chowdhury as having attempted to influence the CBI’s functioning. Bringing Bassi, Gurm, Sinha and Sharma back to the headquarters also means the probe against Asthana could be accelerated since Verma’s tenure ends on January 31.

According to two orders issued by Verma on Wednesday evening, he has withdrawn transfers of 11 officers except DIG Anish Prasad and DIG K R Chaurasia.

Rao had also reconstituted the investigation team in anti-corruption-3 branch by replacing Bassi with SP Satish Dagar, M K Sinha with Tarun Gauba and joint director V Murugesan was asked to supervise the Asthana probe. The changes were justified, off the record, as being intended to de-factionalise the working of the CBI which had got drawn into the bitter battle between Verma and Asthana.

Bassi, Sinha and Gurm were shifted to Port Blair, Nagpur and Jabalpur respectively, which they had termed “arbitrary”.

Even though these officers are back in AC-3 unit and are expected to join on Thursday morning, sources said they won’t be able to take any coercive action against Asthana as the Delhi high court has ordered a status quo in the probe against him.

Alok Verma had claimed that divesting him of powers by the government on the recommendation of the CVC was arbitrary and illegal and only the selection committee led by the Prime Minister, leader of the opposition and Chief Justice of India had the power to remove him.

The government, while sending him on the forced leave, had stated that it was done in public interest as the feud between two most senior officers in the CBI had threatened the credibility of the agency. Verma, according to the sources, had a series of meetings with these officers at the headquarters on Wednesday after which he decided to withdraw all the transfer orders issued by interim director M Nageswara Rao on October 24, a day after Verma was divested of his powers.

On first day back, CBI chief Alok Verma cancels transfers of loyalists – Times of India