Update 28 October 2018

Former union BJP ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie and lawyer Prashant Bhushan have filed a detailed complaint with the CBI accusing Narendra Modi of corruption. They have asked the court to direct the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to probe their complaint on the Rafale aircraft deal between India and France in a time-bound manner and submit regular reports.

Mr Shourie and Mr Bhushan met the CBI’s director Alok Verma. The government was reportedly upset with Mr Verma for meeting them. Their petition to the Supreme Court comes on a day when the government sent Mr Verma on forced leave in the wake of his tussle with his deputy Rakesh Asthana. Mr Asthana, too, has been sent on leave. The feud between the two started when Mr Verma filed a complaint against his deputy, Rakesh Asthana, accusing him of taking a bribe of $409,000 from a businessman who was being investigated by the agency. In his response Mr Asthana told the government that Mr Verma was the one who had taken $275,000 as a bribe from the same individual.

The complaint states that this deal was not only a criminal misconduct under the Prevention of Corruption Act, but was also a straightforward case of corruption because of the $2.734bn  given to Anil Ambani under the offset contract was not a legal remuneration for work expected to be done but it was in the nature of a commission. The petition has urged the Supreme Court to instruct the centre not to intimidate or influence officials who would probe the deal.

The court ordered on Friday that the inquiry against Mr Verma must be completed by the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), which oversees the CBI, in two weeks so that the court can hear the case again on 12 November. The court appointed retired Justice Ananga Kumar Patnaik to oversee the CVC inquiry. The court has also ordered the interim chief of CBI not to take any key decisions until then.

Mr Verma has filed a case in the Supreme Court, saying that his compulsory leave was illegal and that the agency’s independence has been compromised.

PTI reported.

26 October 2018

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has ordered the removal of director Alok Verma from his post as head of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). CBI’s second in-charge Rakesh Asthana has been accused by the CBI of bribery and extortion. Both Verma and Asthana have been asked to go on leave.  The agency’s joint director, M. Nageshwar Rao, has been appointed temporary head of the CBI.

According to opposition leader Rahul Gandhi, Alok Verma sought to arrest an official considered close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He was also investigating corruption in the controversial Rafale fighter jet deal recently concluded by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Referring to the new head of CBI, Nageshwar Rao, Gandhi said that he was a corrupt man who has cases against him.

Subramanian Swamy, a senior BJP leader, also lashed out at the Narendra Modi government for a major reshuffle in the CBI. He termed the removal of CBI director Alok Verma from his position by the government was a “massacre”. Swamy alleged that the government was protecting those guilty of corruption.

Former senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha said that the government’s intervention in the  CBI was linked to the Raphael deal.

There were seven files said to be on Alok Verma’s table when he was suddenly sent on leave. They included: (1) Rafale deal complaint, (2) Medical Council of India bribery case which implicated retired High Court judge I M Quddusi (3) coal mine allocation case allegedly involving IAS officer Bhaskar Khulbe, Secretary to the Prime Minister, (4) Sterling Biotech case in which Special Director Rakesh Asthana’s alleged role was being probed, (5) BJP MP Subramanian Swamy’s letters to the CBI, complaining against Finance and Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia, and (6) case against a Delhi-based middleman who was bribing politicians and officials for “senior Public Sector Unit appointments”.

Modi’s intervention in the affairs of CBI is serious enough to cause a split in the ruling party. His actions were seen as unconstitutional. After all, is Modi as clean as he makes out to be?

Former French president Francois Hollande said earlier that there was a conflict of interest in the Rafale deal as Modi government was intent on Ambani’s company being the local partner and that Dassault Aviation, the maker of the Rafale jet fighters did not have a say in the matter. Now everybody knows what has gone wrong in the Rafale deal. So what is Modi trying to cover up? Are there any more surprises?

Related: Modi government corruption in Rafale plane deal