The government took the decision to send the Central Bureau of Investigation's two senior officers on leave on the Central Vigilance Commission's recommendation to protect the integrity of the investigating agency, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Tuesday, describing the action as "perfectly bonafide".
Jaitley, who was speaking to reporters in the Parliament complex after the Supreme Court gave orders to reinstate CBI director Alok Verma, said the government would comply with the orders of the apex court.
"The government took this decision to protect the integrity of the CBI... Government took the action of sending two senior officers of CBI on leave on CVC's recommendation," he said, referring to the decision to send Verma and CBI Special Director Rakesh Asthana on leave.
The decision by the government on the issue was completely legal as the two officers in question were at loggerheads, he said.
"This action taken was perfectly bonafide as there were cross-allegations made by both the officers, and in accordance with recommendations of the CVC. The government felt that in the larger interest of fair and impartial investigation and credibility of CBI, the two officers must recuse themselves," the finance minister said.
He said the court has referred the matter to the committee to decide on the issue within one week.
"The court apparently has strengthened the immunity given to the CBI director in the larger interest of the fair and impartial working of the CBI. At the same time, the court has devised an accountability mechanism. The directions of the court will obviously be complied with," he said.
Jaitley also pointed out that the government's decision on the issue was not against any particular individual.
"The government had accepted the CVC recommendations with full honesty and today a reinterpretation on the matter has been given by the SC today and we will take action according to the order," he said, adding that the CVC was an independent body and submitted its recommendations to the SC.
Verma had challenged the government's October 23 order sending him on forced leave and appointing an interim chief, arguing that the CBI chief has a fixed two-year term and can be removed only by the high-powered committee.
"The CVC had exercised its power under the power of superintendence. We've not read the judgement of the SC, but it could be a view that the court has taken. That if superintendence results in the chief relinquishing his powers temporarily then the jurisdiction of the committee comes into play.
"Therefore, the court has referred the matter to that committee to decide on that issue within one week. And in accordance with the directions of the court it will be complied with and the government will act in the same manner. The government is not biased," Jaitley said.
The Supreme Court reinstated Verma, setting aside the Centre's decision to divest him of his powers, but restrained him from taking any major policy decision till the CVC probe into corruption charges against him is over.
The apex court said any further decision against Verma who retires on January 31, would be taken by the high-powered committee which selects and appoints the CBI director.