As the battle between the two top officers of the CBI raged, the Delhi High Court Tuesday directed the agency to maintain “status quo” until October 29 on proceedings against its Special Director Rakesh Asthana who sought directions for no coercive steps and quashing of an FIR lodged against him in connection with a case of alleged bribery.
“Do not disturb the equilibrium today,” Justice Najmi Waziri said, adding that “the petitioner (Asthana) is before the court now”.
Asthana has been at loggerheads with CBI Director Alok Verma, and both have levelled serious charges at each other. On Monday, the CBI arrested its own Deputy Superintendent of Police Devender Kumar for “falsification of records” in connection with bribery allegations involving Asthana.
Kumar, who was investigating officer in the Moin Qureshi case as part of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by Asthana, was arrested Monday — a special CBI court Tuesday remanded him in CBI custody for seven days. The CBI had also searched Kumar’s office in the CBI building. Kumar was accused Number 2 in an FIR filed by CBI last week which named Asthana as accused Number 1.
Appearing for Asthana in the High Court, senior advocate Amarendra Sharan and advocate Amit Anand Tiwari urged the court that no coercive step be taken against him since the CBI had already arrested DSP Devender Kumar.
At this, the court, while observing that it would prefer not to use the term “no coercive steps”, directed that “status quo be maintained with regard to petitioner (Asthana)”.
The court directed Asthana to preserve all electronic devices and mobile phones and said the officer should not in any manner tamper with them until the next date of hearing, October 29.
Justice Waziri issued notice to CBI Director Verma, Joint Director A K Sharma and the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) on separate petitions by Asthana and Devender Kumar.
The court did not intervene in the arrest of Kumar and sought the CBI’s stand on his plea seeking quashing of the FIR lodged against him. The CBI has to respond before the next date of hearing.
Besides seeking to summon records of the FIR and related documents, Asthana and Kumar had sought quashing of the FIR lodged against them on October 15 under various sections of the IPC and Prevention of Corruption Act.
Senior advocate Dayan Krishnan, appearing for Kumar, submitted that he had been implicated as an accused in a “false, frivolous, afterthought” case making him a “scapegoat, part of sinister design”.
In his petition, Kumar said that in September he had submitted a proposal for arrest and custodial interrogation of Sana Sathish Babu (complainant in the present FIR), Moin Qureshi and others after he found evidence against them.
CBI counsel K Raghavacharyulu, however, opposed this, saying the allegations against the officers were serious, and involved charges of “bribery and corruption”.
The CBI counsel told the court that they will soon add extortion charges against the accused, since they have unearthed the same during the course of investigation. “The plea for quashing of the FIR is at primitive stage. We will soon filed an amended FIR before the court,” the CBI said.
The court, however, said that nothing should happen within these days. At this, the CBI counsel assured the court that they will stay away.
In a related development, Kumar was produced before the Patiala House Courts where Special CBI Judge Santosh Snehi Mann remanded him in CBI custody for seven days.
The agency had sought ten days for custodial interrogation on the ground that it had recovered documents after searching his office and residence.
The CBI said Kumar was arrested on the allegation of “falsification of records in an ongoing investigation”, that he had allegedly fabricated the statement of businessman Sana Sathish Babu “as an afterthought plan to corroborate the baseless allegations” made by Asthana against the CBI Director.
According to the FIR, Sana, a witness in the Moin Qureshi case, allegedly paid bribes to Asthana for getting relief in investigation from the CBI SIT headed by him.
However, Asthana alleged that this FIR showed “how the highest officer of the premier investigating agency of the country” was trying to falsely implicate him, the second most senior officer of the agency, to hide his “own criminal misconduct of influencing investigations in exchange for money”.
A 1984 batch Indian Police Service officer of the Gujarat cadre, Asthana mentioned in his petition that in August 2018, he had brought to the notice of the Cabinet Secretary “certain disturbing facts” for which there was “no effective redressal mechanism”.
“One such fact related to influencing of investigation relating to… Sana for pecuniary benefits, i.e. for a bribe of Rs 2 crore. On the basis on this complaint, the file was forwarded to CVC for enquiry and the same is currently being enquired by the CVC,” the petition stated.