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Opposition charge on change in CBI “rubbish”, SIT to probe bribery charges: Jaitley

Government on Wednesday rejected as “rubbish” opposition allegations that CBI Director Alok Verma was removed because he was going to order a probe into the charges in the Rafale deal ” and said the step was taken on the recommendation of the CVC to maintain the institutional integrity of the probe agency.

Answering questions at a post-cabinet briefing, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said that an SIT will be formed to go into mutual allegations of bribery levelled by Verma and Special Director Rakesh Asthana in keeping with the principle that those accused will not probe the charges or supervise investigation into charges against them.

“I regard this as rubbish. Three opposition parties are saying that we know what the agency was going to do next (Rafale probe). This cast doubts on the fairness of the probe.

“I don’t believe this is true. If what the the three parties are saying is true, then this itself casts serious doubts on the fairness of the investigation. It violates the integrity of the person.

“I still believe everybody is presumed to be innocent till proved otherwise. We don’t want to prejudge. We are committed to ensuring that India’s investigating process does not become a mockery as some officers have attempted to do in the last few days.

“It is important that the integrity of CBI as an institution be maintained. That is why some officers must stand out for the time being as an interim measure. If they are innocent they will come back,” he said.

He was replying to a question on the charge by Congress, AAP and CPI-M that Verma was shunted out because he was going to order a probe into the allegations on the Rafale deal over which former ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie and senior Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan had given a memorandum demanding a probe.

Jaitley said CBI is an premier investigating agency and maintenance of its institutional integrity is a pre-condition for not only ensuring that investigations are fair and that “we cannot afford people facing allegations who are outside the country raising fingers against the integrity of CBI.”

He said a strange and unfortunate situation had arisen with the Director and Special Director of the agency levelling allegations against each other.

“Who will investigate? The requirement of fairness and fair play should be there. It does not come under government jurisdiction and government will not do it,” he said, and added that the power of superintendence of the investigative functions of CBI rests with the CVC under the provisions of the CBI Act.

“Who will do it, who is the witness and what is the evidence under CrPC. The investigation should be fair. The CVC should look into it. The CVC has all the material about the mutual allegations,” he said.

The Finance Minister said the Central Vigilance Commission met on Tuesday evening and said that the two officers cannot probe these allegations nor can any agency under their supervision can do it.

“So to maintain the integrity of the CBI and fairness of the probe and as an interim measure they have been asked to sit out. An SIT not functioning under either of the two officers will investigate the case. This is in keeping with the highest standards of fairness.”

Referring to the opposition allegations on the removal of Verma, he asked “do they want either of the officers who are facing charges be the supervising authority. Nothing can be more unfair than the accused being incharge or supervisory head of the investigation.”

Asked why the Secretary of the Personnel Department was woken up after midnight to issue the order on Verma, Jaitley said the question is contrary to the first part that the action came late.

“The CVC made the decision in the evening. The government is fast-acting. If the government acts fast, you say it is in a hurry. If it is slow acting, you will say it is policy paralysis,” he said.

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