Divesting CBI Director Alok Verma and Special Director Rakesh Asthana of their duties amid an unprecedented feud in the agency, the government said it has done so after examining documents and “in the interest of equality, fair play and principles of natural justice”.
However, an analysis of the transfers of 14 officers ordered by the agency on Wednesday — after interim Director M Nageshwar Rao took charge — makes it clear that officers considered close to Verma have been sidelined. And those considered close to Asthana have been given weighty responsibilities.
Key to the reshuffle is the marginalisation of Joint Director (Policy) A K Sharma who was working closely with Verma. The Joint Director (Policy) is an important post in the CBI — at least two of his predecessors have gone on to become CBI Director.
Sharma headed the key Anti Corruption III unit (AC III). Verma had entrusted it with key cases taking them away from Asthana’s team. Almost the entire unit has been disbanded as part of the transfers.
Sharma himself has been transferred to the most moribund department of the agency, the Multi Disciplinary Monitoring Agency (MDMA). The sole case of this department — probe into the larger conspiracy behind assassination of Rajiv Gandhi — has still not reached a conclusion.
Ironically, both Asthana and Sharma are from the Gujarat cadre and had enjoyed key postings during the chief ministership of Narendra Modi in the state.
Sharma isn’t the only one out in the cold.
* Deputy SP Ajay Kumar Bassi of Sharma’s Anti-Corruption III unit has been transferred to the CBI office in Port Blair, Andaman and Nicobar. * Another Deputy SP Ashwani Gupta, the staff officer of A K Sharma, has been sent back to his parent cadre of Intelligence Bureau.
Both these officers had been deputed by Sharma to investigate the 2016 wedding of Rakesh Asthana’s daughter in Vadodara.
And Asthana, in a letter to Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) recently, had alleged that these officers were of “doubtful integrity” and had been sent on a “roving enquiry” to Vadodara to somehow connect him to the Sandesara family, prime accused in the Sterling Biotech case.
* Anish Prasad’s is another key transfer. Prasad was the DIG of SU-1 (Surveillance) unit. The SU unit is CBI’s intelligence wing. It is associated with conducting electronic surveillance and snooping. Prasad has been transferred to the Administration and Personnel Department where he will be a Deputy Director.
In July, Prasad was at the centre of a tussle between Asthana and Verma when the latter put his foot down and ensured Prasad was brought back from Tripura.
In his letter to CVC on the investigation into his daughter’s wedding, Asthana had claimed that the CBI was intruding into his personal space and was snooping on conversations of his family members.
DIG K R Chaurasia, Head of Economic Offences-1 unit, who had in 2013 recommended questioning of the then PM Manmohan Singh in the coal scam, has been given additional charge of Prasad’s department.
* Additional SP S S Gurn of AC III, regarded close to Sharma, has been transferred to Jabalpur.
* M K Sinha, DIG of AC III and Banking and Securities Fraud Cell (BSFC), which functioned under A K Sharma and was probing key cases of bank loan frauds such as the PNB scam, has been sent away from headquarters to the Nagpur office.
In contrast, those officers associated with Asthana have been transferred with relatively more significant assignments.
* From Asthana’s Special Investigation Team (SIT), a key reassignment is of Joint Director A Sai Manohar. He has been made joint director of Chandigarh Zone, but the transfer orders say he will continue to remain in CBI headquarters in Delhi and hold additional charge of SIT and TFC (Technical Forensics and Coordination) Zone “in public interest”.
* Dy SP Devender Kumar, who has been arrested by Sharma’s team in connection with the agency’s recent FIR against Rakesh Asthana, is part of the SIT.
Sai Manohar was Joint Director (Policy) when Asthana was interim director in the agency. He is known to have written the vigilance report of one of the officers recommended for induction into the CBI by Alok Verma during his initial days as Director in the agency. Based on this report, the officer was not inducted into the agency.
It was this incident that laid the foundation of the tussle between Verma and Asthana.
* Amit Kumar, DIG Economic Offences III unit, has been given additional charge of Joint Director (Policy), the post held by Sharma before his exit. Amit Kumar earlier worked under Asthana and was investigating the coal scam cases.
* M K Sinha has been replaced in AC III by Tarun Gauba, DIG ACB Chandigarh. Gauba investigated the Vyapam Scam in which MP CM Shivraj Chauhan has been given a clean chit.
Other key transfers include that of Joint Director (AC II) V Murugesan, who has been given additional charge of AC I and Economic Offences II branch. Satish Dagar of Economic Offences III unit has also been moved to AC III as SP. Dagar probed the Gurmeet Ram Rahim case which has ended in conviction. It is this team, including Tarun Gauba, that will investigate the FIR against Asthana.
DIG (Special Crime) Jasbir Singh, who has worked under interim Director Nageshwar Rao, has been given additional charge BSFC, earlier under Sharma. DIG Ram Gopal of Special Crime Branch (Chandigarh) has been given additional charge of ACB Chandigarh.
Said a source: “The reshuffle has been effected in such a manner that effective control of the agency remains with those close to Asthana.”