In a fresh twist to the tussle within the Central Bureau of Investigation involving the agency's number 1 and number 2 officials, the investigative agency has reportedly divested Special CBI Director Rakesh Asthana of all responsibilities, according to CNN-News18. The move is the latest in a series of development that split open the rift within the top two ranks of the CBI.
Asthana, who along with his deputy, Devender Kumar, has been named as the main accused in a bribery case by his own agency, challenged the First Information Report (FIR) against him in the Delhi High Court. The court posted the matter for next hearing 29 October and ruled that status quo should be maintained till the next hearing when CBI Director Alok Verma has to respond to the counter allegations levelled by Asthana. Asthana has alleged that it was the CBI chief who took the bribe but framed him to jeopardise his future career prospects.
Asthana had sought interim relief from court claiming that the criminal investigation against him was on 'flimsy grounds' and motivated.
ANI reported that Asthana's advocate told the Delhi High Court that the case was an instance of the "illegal registration of an FIR" based on a statement of an accused. The advocate also said that it was a matter of "great urgency". "The person whose arrest was recommended by Asthana has now been made a complainant, and based on his complaint, this FIR has been filed. Any investigation without proper permission will be illegal," Asthana's lawyer said.
However, the counsel representing the CBI said, "The charges against the accused, including that of bribery and criminal conspiracy, are very serious. The charges (have been framed) under the Prevention of Corruption Act. Charges of extortion and forgery will also be added."
Meanwhile, Kumar, who was arrested on Monday by the agency, was produced before a special court on Tuesday. The CBI is seeking a 10-day remand of its own deputy superintendent of police, citing some evidence it recovered from raids on Kumar's home and office. The CBI told the court that Kumar is part of an alleged extortion racket being run in the garb of the investigation. It also sought the court’s nod to add some more sections in present FIR against accused including Kumar.
The matter relates to a case involving meat exporter Moin Qureshi, which was headed by Asthana, while Kumar was its chief investigating officer. The CBI has accused the duo of forgery in recording the statement of Satish Sana, another accused in the case. Sana had alleged that he paid bribes to the officials in order to get a clean chit in the case, CBI said.
In retaliation, Asthana wrote to the government last week listing several charges against his boss and CBI director Verma. Asthana was leading the investigation against Sana, when he claimed to have discovered proof that Sana paid off Rs 2 crore in bribe to Verma with the help of a Rajya Sabha member belonging to a regional party.
Asthana communicated this to the CVC on 24 August and on 26 September, Sana allegedly admitted to the charges relating to payment of bribe. "It is clear the active efforts are underway to falsely implicate me (Rakesh Asthana). In the light of above, the commission may kindly expeditiously transfer the investigation and supervision of 8 case to the SIT as requested by undersigned (Rakesh Asthana) in the earlier letters in the interest of justice and in the spirit of principles of nature of justice," reads the letter as quoted by India Today.
In his statement, Sana had purportedly said that in June this year he discussed his case with Telugu Desam Party's Rajya Sabha member CM Ramesh who, after speaking to the CBI director, had assured him that he would not be summoned again.
"From June onwards, I was not called by the CBI. I was under the impression that investigation against me is complete," he is believed to have said.
But in a dramatic turn of events just 19 days later, the CBI has now alleged that Kumar had fabricated Sana's statement as an "afterthought...to corroborate the baseless allegations made by Asthana against CBI Director Alok Verma to the CVC (Central Vigilance Commissioner)", News18 reported.
Another report in The Times of India cites unknown sources to suggest that Asthana's initial list of allegations incriminated more than one public servants including additional director AK Sharma’s family members, whom he accused of running shell companies. The newspaper further reported that over the last 6-7 months, important cases handled by Asthana have been taken away from him, a fact about which Asthana complained to the cabinet secretary in one of his letters to the latter on 24 August. Asthana claimed that there were concerted efforts "to tarnish” his image. "
Asthana, a Gujarat-cadre IPS officer, is heading the Special Investigating Team handling crucial cases such as the AgustaWestland chopper scam and loan fraud by business tycoon Vijay Mallya.
With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: Jan 08, 2019 13:14 PM