CBI Officers sent on leave to maintain Integrity : Arun Jaitley

After CBI officers Alok Verma and Rakesh Asthana were sent on leave, Union finance minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday said the move was taken to maintain the institutional integrity of the investigative agency.

Addressing a press conference, the Union minister said that the allegations by Verma and Asthana against each other led to this bizarre and unfortunate situation.

"To maintain the institutional integrity of CBI and in the interest of fairness, purely as an interim measure, both Alok Verma and Rakesh Asthana will sit out by going on leave. An SIT, not functioning under either of these officers, will investigate the corruption charges against them. This is in accordance with highest standards of fairness," the finance minister said.

"The government passed the order as per the recommendations of the CVC. The CVC has all the material that both officers have complained of," Jaitley said.

It is an extraordinary situation, and the accused cannot be allowed to be in charge of investigation against them, the minister said.

He also dismissed as "rubbish" allegations of opposition parties, including the Congress, that Verma was removed because he wanted to look into the Rafale fighter jet deal.

In a swipe at them, Jaitley said their allegations indicate they had access to what was going in the mind of the officer concerned, an apparent reference to Verma. That itself demolishes the integrity of the person they are trying to support, he said.

Earlier, Verma moved the Supreme Court against the government order to appoint interim CBI chief and sending him on leave.

The government on late Tuesday night appointed M Nageshwar Rao as interim chief+ of the CBI "with immediate effect" after the internal fight between Verma and Asthana.

Both Verma and Asthana have been "divested of all powers", sources said, calling it the first such case in the history of the agency.

The government's action came a day after high-voltage drama involving Alok Verma and Rakesh Asthana in the Delhi high court.