The year 2018 has been unprecedented in terms of battles that pitted the government against central institutions or institutions of national relevance. These battles for sure have shaken up the trust among citizens and dominated headlines this year. Let us have a look at some of these institutions and the controversies they embroiled into.
The CBI vs CBI war
The year 2018 saw a bitter spat between the Central Bureau Investigation (CBI) two officials which has “exposed the CBI to ridicule”. The turmoil started when the CBI Director, Alok Verma and the Special Director Rakesh Asthana levelled corruption charges against each other. Amid allegations and accusations, the Government in an overnight decision divested Alok Verma and Rakesh Asthana of their power and duties till Central Vigilance Commission completes its inquiry. With their transfer, M Nageshwar Rao was made interim CBI Chief. But, Alok Verma challenged his transfer in the Supreme Court where the bench headed by Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi, ordered CVC to complete its enquiry in the case in 15 days. However, on December 5, the Supreme Court pulled up the Centre and questioned its sudden move on the night of October 23 which divested CBI Director Alok Verma of his responsibilities without approval of the Selection Committee.
RBI vs Government
Urjit Patel on December 10 resigned as the RBI Governor, nine months before of his scheduled departure, amid the dispute over the regulator’s autonomy. This came after a prolong tension between the central bank and the government over Section 7(2) of the Reserve Bank of India Act or RBI Act. This section empowers government to issue directions to the “lender of last resort”. In simple words, the government is eyeing on RBI’s large reserves. But, RBI is called a “lender of last resort” for a reason; it uses these large reserves to step up at the time of major crisis which could bring down the financial system of the country. The RBI holds Rs. 28,724 billion in reserves, which includes foreign currency assets, gold and sovereign debt receipts. After Urijit’s resignation, Shaktikanta Das was appointed as the 25th governor of RBI. Das has taken over when the relationship between RBI and the government has been deformed over major contentious issues including the government to get the central bank in providing liquidity to the market.
In an unprecedented move, four senior-most Supreme Court Judges- Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph- held a press conference in January, mounted an attack against the then Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, listing the problems that could afflict nation’s highest court. Justice Chelameswar during the conference said “sometimes administration of the Supreme Court is not in order and many things which are less than desirable have happened in the last few months.” The judges questioned Misra’s role in which the cases were assigned in the roster. With the press conference, the judges also feared that the democracy of India will not survive if the centre of the judicial system is not protected. Further adding, the judges said that they had no choice but to go public with their concerns, and they have failed to convince the Chief Justice about the same. “We don’t want wise men saying 20 years from now that we sold our souls and didn’t do the right thing by our Constitution,” the judges said.