Published On: Tue, Nov 20th, 2018

SC adjourns CBI hearing post ‘leak’ of Verma’s response

New Delhi: Taking exception to a leak of CBI Director Alok Verma’s response to the CVC’s report submitted in sealed cover before it a day ago, the Supreme Court on Tuesday adjourned hearing of the case till November 29.

Responsible means responsible and not responsible to someone

A visibly unhappy Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi, in a brief order, said “for reasons not to be recorded, we are not inclined to hear the matter today (Tuesday)” after a news portal carried extracts of Verma’s response.

Gogoi also said one of the two judges on the bench — Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice K.M. Joseph — “will be away from tonight”.

Venting its anguish over the manner in which applications mentioned before the court on Monday reached the media, CJI Gogoi said: “This court is not a platform. This is a place where adjudication of rights takes place. We intend to set it right.”

The CJI also referred to the mentioning of the application by CBI DIG Manish Kumar Sinha who was supervising the probe into allegations of corruption against Special Director Rakesh Asthana.

DIG Sinha, while questioning his dramatic transfer to Nagpur on the night of October 23, has pointed finger at National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval for interfering in the investigation against Asthana.

At the outset, the Chief Justice, disallowing the customary mentioning, asked senior counsel Fali Nariman to look at a report which was given to him.

“It is only for you (Nariman) to read yourself it is not for the counsel for Alok Verma” (Nariman is appearing for Verma),” Gogoi told the senior counsel.

Addressing him as the “most respected senior member of the institution”, Gogoi added: “If you wish to respond to this, we will adjourn the hearing from an hour or so.”

However, Nariman expressing his ignorance over the publication, said: “I was also disturbed on seeing it. I will request the court to summon the person who carried this report.”

He also added while the “media is free, but at the same time it has to be responsible. It has to be both. It is my reading of the media. Responsible means responsible and not responsible to someone”.

Referring to the media reports that a mentioning was made on Monday seeking more time to file Verma’s response to the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC)’s report, Nariman clarified that the lawyer who made the request was totally unauthorised and he (Nariman) was not even informed about it.

“It was not informed to me. I was not aware. Nobody asked him to make mentioning. We worked whole night to prepare (Verma’s) response. It was totally unauthorised.”

“I was as disturbed,” Nariman said when he saw newspaper reports in the morning.

Later in the day, Nariman told the court the report that appeared in the news portal was of November 17, whereas we filed the response on November 19.

Refusing to moderate its position on papers meant for the court reaching the media even before it could be dealt with by them, CJI Gogoi said: “We expect high a degree of confidentiality.”

The court was apparently perturbed over the “integrity” of the investigating agency getting “compromised” due to wide media coverage of the DIG Sinha’s application naming high and mighty in the matter relating to Special Direrctor Rakesh Asthana.

Even as advocate Gopal Shankaranarayanan, who had sought accommodation of a few hours in filing the reply of Alok Verma to “not so complimentary” findings of the CVC, tried to explain the position, Nariman said that he had approached the court a day before without any authorisation.

The CJI was so irked with the situation that had emerged by the alleged “leak” of Verma’s response to court and the contents of DIG Sinha finding space in media columns that he refused to hear any one including Solicitor General till the issue before the court is sorted out.

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