Amid the murky infighting in The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), chief Alok Verma and special director Rakesh Asthana have been sent on leave. The central government, in a midnight move, appointed the CBI joint director, M Nagaeshwar Rao, as its interim chief.
The order implies that the government has side lined all the three additional directors, number three in the agency hierarchy, including A K Sharma whose name had figured in the complaint by Asthana.There were reports that the CBI Headquarters had been sealed and officials or outsiders were not being allowed as a team of officers was inside, the sources said. However, the building has now been opened, according to PTI.
The decision comes at a time when Verma was at loggerheads with Asthana, who was booked by the chief investigative agency in an alleged bribery case. Asthana was also stripped off from all his roles and responsibilities at the agency on Tuesday.
The CBI on Sunday had registered a case against Asthana for accepting bribe to settle a case of meat exporter Moin Qureshi, who is facing multiple cases of money laundering and corruption. "An FIR was registered against Asthana, deputy SP Devender Kumar, Manoj Prasad and Someshwar Prasad, on 15 October following a complaint by Sathish Babu Sana of Hyderabad," the CBI had said. The agency alleged that bribes were taken at least five times from December 2017 and October 2018.
Asthana, a 1984 batch Indian Police Service officer of Gujarat cadre, has been accused of accepting a bribe of Rs 2 crore from a businessman who was under probe in the Qureshi case in order to "wreck" the investigation. The case was being examined by a special investigation team (SIT) headed by Asthana. The CBI lodged the FIR on 15 October after the arrest of a middleman Manoj, who had confessed before a magistrate confirming the payment of Rs 2 crore to Asthana, The Indian Express reported.
Qureshi was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in August 2017 under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.
Earlier, Asthana had filed a complaint against Verma accusing him of interfering in the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation corruption case involving family members of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Lalu Prasad. Subsequently, in a press statement, the agency had denied Asthana's charges against Verma and asserted that he himself was under probe in half-a-dozen cases and was trying to intimidate officials who were probing his role.
The fight between them has raged for several months with Verma allegedly seeking to block Asthana's elevation as the special director on the ground that the latter was being probed in some cases.
The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), however, brushed aside the objection, saying that the charges against Asthana were not substantial, a decision which was later upheld by the Supreme Court. The rift came out in the open once again when the CBI Director objected to the CVC calling Asthana as the CBI's representative for a meeting when the former was abroad on an official trip.
Meanwhile, the CBI has suspended Kumar, who was arrested on Monday on the charge of falsification of records while probing allegations against Qureshi. A trial court on Tuesday had sent Kumar to CBI custody for seven days. However, the Delhi High Court granted him interim protection from arrest till Monday.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Jan 08, 2019 13:12:40 IST