In a setback to Special CBI Director Rakesh Asthana, the Delhi High Court on Friday refused to quash the FIR against him in a case involving bribery allegations filed by the agency. Justice Najmi Waziri directed the CBI to conclude investigation against Asthana, who had a running battle with ousted Director Alok Verma, within 10 weeks.
On December 20, Justice Najmi Waziri had reserved the order on the plea of Asthana and suspended Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Devender Kumar seeking quashing of FIRs against them. Asthana had said the cases were registered against them in an illegal manner with mala fide intention.
The now ousted CBI Director Alok Verma's counsel has justified the agency's action against Asthana, saying the registration of FIR was in compliance with all existing laws, regulations and after following due procedure.
According to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Kumar fabricated the statement of Sathish Sana Babu, a witness in Moin Qureshi case, showing he recorded the statement on September 26, 2018, in Delhi. However, the investigation revealed that Sana was not in Delhi that day. He was in Hyderabad and joined the investigation only on October 1, 2018.
The CBI has registered an FIR against Asthana, Kumar and two others, alleging that they took bribes at least five times between December 2017 and October 2018.
Asthana, a 1984-batch IPS officer of the Gujarat cadre, is accused of accepting a bribe of Rs 2 crore from a businessman who was being probed in the case to "wreck" the investigation. The case was being examined by a special investigation team headed by Asthana.
As the battle between Asthana and Verma escalated, Verma was on October 23-24 night divested of his charge and Joint Director M Nageshwar Rao was made the interim Director. Asthana was also divested of all his supervisory responsibilities.
Verma was finally removed as CBI chief on Thursday by a high-level committee headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi by 2-1 majority.
Former CBI chief Alok Verma resigns from service
Former CBI chief Alok Verma submitted his resignation from service on Friday, a day after he was removed from his post by a high powered committee.
Verma said in his resignation letter, that it was a moment of "collective introspection".
"Also, it may be noted that the undersigned already superannuated as on July 31, 2017 and was only serving Government as Director, CBI till January 31, 2019, as the same was fixed tenure role. The undersigned is no longer Director, CBI and has already crossed the superannuation age for DG Fire Service, Civil Defence and Home Guards. Accordingly, the undersigned may be deemed as superannuated with effect from today," Verma said in his letter to Secretary, Department of Personnel and Training Friday.
Earlier on Thursday, Former CBI director Alok Verma, who was ousted from the agency by a high-powered selection committee, has said that he was transferred on the basis of "false, unsubstantiated and frivolous allegations" made by only one person, who was inimical to him.
Breaking his silence, Verma in a statement on late Thursday night said that the CBI, being a prime investigating agency dealing in corruption in high public places, is an institution whose independence should be preserved and protected.
"It must function without external influences. I have tried to uphold the integrity of the institution while attempts were being made to destroy it. The same can be seen from the orders of the central government and the CVC dated October 23, 2018 which were without jurisdiction and were set aside," he said.
Verma, a 1979-batch IPS officer from AGMUT cadre, was transferred from the position of CBI Director to Director General, Fire Service, Civil Defence and Home Guards under the home ministry on Thursday.
Interim CBI Director cancels all transfers made by Verma
Hours after again taking charge as interim Director of the CBI, Additional Director M. Nageswara Rao on Friday nullified all the transfer orders issued by Alok Verma, who was on Thursday removed as the agency's Director.
Informed sources said that Rao axed all the transfers done by Verma on Wednesday and Thursday after the latter was restored to the top post by the Supreme Court.
Verma on Thursday issued transfer orders of six officials including two Joint Directors, one Assistant Director and two Deputy Inspector Generals (DIG).
On Wednesday, Verma had revoked most transfer orders issued by Rao on October 24, a day after he was first time appointed the interim Director of the agency.
That day, Rao transferred 13 CBI officials including Joint Director (Policy) A.K. Sharma, Deputy Inspectors General M.K. Sinha, Anish Prasad, K.R. Chaurasia and Tarun Gauba, Additional Superintendent of Police SS Gurm and Deputy Superintendents of Police AK Bassi and Ashwani Kumar.
The transfers were Rao's first decision after he took charge again on Friday as interim Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Director after a Select Committee headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday night removed Verma as the CBI chief.
Markandey Katju supports Justice Sikri’s decision to remove Alok Verma as agency chief
Former judge of the Supreme Court of India Markandey Katju on Thursday supported Justice AK Sikri who had voted in favour of removing Alok Verma as the Director of Central Bureau of Investigation. Katju said that Sikri would not have taken the decision without strong material on record against the CBI Director Verma.
In a Facebook post on Friday, Katju cited his telephonic conversation with Sikri in response to questions being raised over why the high-power committee did not call Verma for a hearing before taking the decision to remove him as the agency’s chief.
Markandey Katju claimed Sikri said that the CVC had recorded “prima facie findings of guilt on some serious charges against Verma” and that the commission had heard Verma before recording its findings. Former SC judge said that based on the commission’s findings, Sikri was of the opinion that Verma should not remain director of CBI until the matter was fully investigated and a final decision is “given about the guilt or innocence of Verma”.
Justice Sikri was part of the high-power selection committee along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge. Sikri and Modi voted in favour of Verma’s removal and said his continuance as director would be detrimental to the CBI’s institutional integrity, while Kharge opposed the removal and gave a dissent note.
Sikri told Katju, “As regards the question of not giving a hearing to Verma, it is a settled principle that even suspension can be done without giving the accused a hearing, and suspensions pending enquiry are very common. It is only dismissal which cannot be done without a hearing.”
Sikri purportedly said that Verma’s services were not terminated. “He has not even been suspended, but only transferred retaining his salary and perks,” Sikri said, according to Katju. “He has only been transferred to an equivalent post.”
with inputs from Agencies