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SC irked over leak of CBI director's confidential reply, publication of Sinha's allegations.

Summary: Court was hearing Verma's plea against govt's decision to divest him of duties

New Delhi: The Supreme Court Tuesday expressed deep anguish over the purported leak of CBI Director Alok Kumar Verma's response to the CVC's findings against him as also the publication of allegations levelled by agency's DIG Manoj Kumar Sinha in his separate plea.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, which reheard the matter at the request of senior advocate Fali S Nariman, who is representing Verma, made it clear that the court would not hear any party and would confine itself to the issues red flagged by it.

Miffed over the alleged leak of Verma's confidential response to CVC's findings, the bench, which also comprises Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph, said that it wanted to keep the CBI Director's response confidential to maintain the probe agency's dignity.

The court was hearing Verma's plea against govt's decision to divest him of duties and sending him on leave.

The bench, while adjourning the hearing to November 29, then took umbrage of various media reports based on the petition filed by Sinha levelling allegations against various top functionaries.

"Yesterday, we had refused the mentioning (seeking urgent listing of Sinha's plea gainst his transfer to Nagpur) and we had expressed that highest degree of confidentiality was to be maintained.

"But here is a litigant who mentions it before us and then goes out to distribute the petition to everyone," the CJI said referring to the purported wild allegations of Sinha which have been published in the media.

"Our efforts to maintain the respect of this institution is not shared by these people. They are giving it to everybody," the CJI said.

Sinha on Monday dragged the names of NSA Ajit Doval, Union minister Haribhai Parthibhai Chaudhary and CVC K V Chowdhury over alleged attempts to interfere in the probe against CBI Special Director Rakesh Asthana, who has been divested of his duties and sent on leave along with his boss.

Earlier in the morning, the top court had expressed strong displeasure over the leak of Verma's confidential reply in the media and adjourned the hearing in his case to November 29.

Minutes later, Nariman and lawyer Gopal Shankaranarayanan mentioned the case again before a bench headed by Chief Justice and sought hearing during the day itself.

When the bench again took the matter, Nariman said that the apex court had passed order asking Verma to respond to the CVC's finding on November 16 and the news article published by the portal was of November 17.

Nariman clarified that the news article contained Verma's response given to CVC during the preliminary inquiry proceedings.

However, the bench then referred to some other news articles published based on Sinha's plea levelling against top functionaries of the government.

"This is yesterday's article. We want to know what is going on. This court is not a platform for people to come and express whatever they want. This is a place where people come for adjudication of their legal rights. This is not a platform and we will set it right," the CJI said.

The top court again adjourned hearing to November 29 and refused to hear any party, including Central Vigilance Commission.

At the outset, the alleged leak of Verma's confidential response to the CVC's findings on corruption charges against him irked the top court, which said none of "you deserve any hearing".

On the leak of Verma's confidential reply in the media, the bench, without divulging the name of the news portal, which allegedly carried a story on the CBI director's response, handed over to Nariman a copy of the news report.

"It is only for you Mr Nariman and not as a counsel for Alok Verma. We have given this to you as you are one of the most respected and senior member of the institution. Please help us," the bench told Nariman.

Nariman, after going through the news report, said it was totally "unauthorised" and he was very "disturbed and shocked" by it.

The chief justice then told Nariman that Shankaranarayanan, who is also representing Verma, had on Monday mentioned the matter before the court and sought more time to file a reply on behalf of the CBI director.

"Nobody had asked him (Shankaranarayanan) to do so. It was totally unauthorised. I was never informed. Nobody asked him to mention the matter. I am very disturbed," Nariman told the bench, adding that he and his junior had worked late in the night to prepare Verma's response.

Referring to the media report, Nariman said, "This gives a new twist to the word responsible press and freedom of press", and added that the news portal and its journalists concerned be summoned by the court.

"How can this come? It's a leak. I myself is shattered the way it has been done," he said.

The CJI then adjourned the hearing to November 29 and said the bench does not want to record any reasons for it and observed ,"We don't think any of you deserve any hearing".

-- PTI

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Date:Nov 20, 2018
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