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Senior CBI officials said there was ‘no word as yet on Rakesh Asthana’s suspension’. Photo: HT
Senior CBI officials said there was ‘no word as yet on Rakesh Asthana’s suspension’. Photo: HT

CBI vs CBI: Delhi HC seeks details of Rakesh Asthana’s FIR

CBI special director Rakesh Asthana has petitioned the Delhi high court for a dismissal of the CBI bribery probe against him

New Delhi: Trouble piled up on Tuesday for Central Bureau of Investigation’s (CBI) special director Rakesh Asthana with the agency filing a supplementary chargesheet against him, even as the beleaguered officer petitioned the Delhi high court for a dismissal of the CBI bribery probe against him.

The Delhi high court, responding to the petition, told CBI to place on record the various criminal provisions under which an FIR has been registered against two agency officials—Asthana and deputy superintendent of police Devender Kumar—amid continuing infighting in the country’s top investigating agency.

Justice Najmi Waziri, who was hearing the case, sought status quo to be maintained till 29 October, the next date of hearing. “Petitioners (Rakesh Asthana and Devender Kumar) shall ensure safe custody and preserve all electronic records in their custody, including mobile phones," he said.

The court, however, denied interim relief to Kumar who was arrested on Monday in connection with the bribery case registered against Asthana.

Advocate Amarendra Sharan, appearing for Asthana, described the plea for quashing the FIR against him as a matter of utmost urgency. “It is barred by Section 17 (a) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1987. It is mala fide," he said.

Sharan added that it was necessary to seek requisite permission before starting such an investigation against Asthana, in the absence of which the probe would be “without jurisdiction, illegal and in the teeth of law".

Despite the interim relief to Asthana, the Enforcement Directorate on Tuesday filed a supplementary chargesheet against him in the Gujarat-based Sterling Biotech case, which involves a 8,100 crore bank fraud by promoters of the Vadodara-based company.

With the implosion in the agency presenting an unprecedented challenge to authorities, former CBI officials said the Prime Minister’s Office had three options before it: Asthana could be suspended with immediate effect; he could be shifted to “a more innocuous post in the government"; or he could be allowed to continue in his current position after being divested of powers and cases assigned to him.

Meanwhile, the row between the two top officials of the agency intensified with director Alok Verma writing to the PMO seeking Asthana’s suspension pending an investigation and his immediate repatriation to the Gujarat cadre, officials familiar with the development confirmed.

While CBI is yet to update the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) on the matter, senior CBI officials said that there was “no word as yet on Rakesh Asthana’s suspension".

There was little relief for DSP Kumar on Tuesday, when he was sent to seven days’ CBI custody and suspended from the agency.

On Monday evening, CBI sleuths arrested Kumar, the investigating officer of a CBI special investigation team (SIT) probing money-laundering charges against controversial Hyderabad-based meat exporter Moin Qureshi.

Kumar was charged with falsifying the statement of a Hyderabad-based businessman named Sathish Sana, a key witness in the case, in order to implicate director Verma.

Tuesday’s supplementary chargesheet against Asthana is related to the original 15 October case of criminal conspiracy and corruption filed by CBI against him.

The alleged link is Chetan Sandesara, co-promoter of Sterling Biotech, who is absconding.

While Asthana was probing the Sterling Biotech case, Sandesara is reported to have met Manoj Prasad, a Dubai-based business in London last year. Prasad has been named in the CBI complaint as the man who allegedly collected a 3 crore bribe for Asthana in the Moin Qureshi case.

Asthana has spearheaded several important cases such as the AgustaWestland scam, the Bihar fodder scam, the coal scam and the probe against liquor baron Vijay Mallya.

Asthana was also probing the INX Media case, allegedly involving former union minister P. Chidambaram, as well as the IRCTC tender issuance case involving former Bihar chief minister Lalu Prasad Yadav.

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