Opposition parties Wednesday slammed the government for CBI Director Alok Verma's removal amid an escalating feud between him and his deputy Rakesh Asthana, with the Congress dubbing it the "last nail" in the agency's independence and the CPI(M) calling it illegal.
Adding its voice to the debate, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) asked the reasons for sending the CBI director on leave.
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala wondered if Verma was "sacked" for his keenness to probe the "layers of corruption" in the Rafale scam and sought an answer from Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
"Modi govt buries the 'last nail' into the independence of CBI. Systematic dismantling & denigrating of CBI is now complete. Once a premier investigating agency, PM ensures that CBI's integrity, credibility & reliability is buried & dead," Surjewala said on Twitter.
There was no immediate comment either from the government or the ruling BJP on the allegations levelled by opposition parties.
"PM Modi has demonstrated the true colour of his infamous ‘Modi Made Gujarat Model' by this cloak-and-dagger mugging of CBI. Has the CBI Director been sacked for his keenness to probe the layers of corruption in Rafale Scam? Isn't the rest a shoddy cover up? Let PM answer!" the Congress leader said.
Attacking the prime minister, he said Modi has sought to achieve surreptitiously and clandestinely what he cannot do directly by sacking the CBI director.
Habitual and perpetual misuse of the CBI by the government and the BJP to "tamper fair investigation of serious criminal cases" is the reason for this unfathomable mess, Surjewala alleged.
CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury termed Verma's removal "illegal".
It has been done to protect the government's handpicked officer against whom serious charges of corruption are being investigated, he said, alleging that it points to attempts at a serious cover-up to protect his direct links to the BJP's top political leadership.
"To ensure that the CBI is not a 'caged parrot', the Supreme Court had granted protection to its chief from govt's whims and fancies by giving him a two-year tenure. What is Modi govt trying to hide by its panic move?" he asked.
Delhi Chief Minister and AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal echoed him.
"What are the reasons for sending CBI director on leave? Under which law did the Modi govt get the authority to initiate action against the chief of an investigating agency appointed as per the Lokpal Act? What is Modi govt trying to hide?" he said on Twitter.
The government has divested Verma and Asthana of all powers amid an ongoing spat between them, sources said, calling it the first such case in the history of the agency.
The prime minister-led Appointments Committee Tuesday night gave charge of the director to Joint Director M Nageshwara Rao with immediate effect, a government order said.