THE gathering war within the CBI, between Director Alok Verma and Special Director Rakesh Asthana, came to a head on Friday after the agency said that it was probing Asthana in as many as six cases of alleged corruption. And that Asthana was maligning the Director’s image and trying to “intimidate” officials by sending a “frivolous” complaint to the Central Vigilance Commission against Verma.
The six instances against Asthana were placed on record in June as part of the appraisal process and communicated to the Directorate of Personnel and Training (DoPT) which comes under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Reacting to this, Asthana wrote to the government with a complaint against Verma, saying that the Director had sought to impede his functioning, interfere in investigations and malign his reputation.
As reported by The Indian Express on July 16, Verma had written to the CVC that Asthana is himself “under (the) scanner” in several cases and that to “maintain organizational integrity”, he “cannot be consulted for inducting officers into CBI” in the absence of the Director.
Among the six cases cited is the Rs 5,000-crore Sterling Biotech case involving the Sandesara brothers, where there are diaries with two entries of Asthana’s name. Based on similar entries in the diaries, chargesheets have been filed against Sterling Bioetch directors Chetan Jayantilal Sandesara, Dipti Chetan Sandesara, Rajbhushan Omprakash Dixit, Nitin Jayantilal Sandesara and Vilas Joshi, chartered accountant Hemant Hathi, former Andhra Bank director Anup Garg and some other unidentified persons. The ED has filed chargesheet against Congress leader Ahmed Patel’s son-in-law based on the same diary entries.
There is also an allegation in the correspondence with DoPT that as Additional Director of CBI, Asthana tried to allegedly influence and deflect income tax proceedings against Sandesara. Another allegation relates to Asthana’s family members allegedly using private flights chartered by the Gujarati businessman chargesheeted by CBI in the Sterling Biotech case and paying flight tickets. among other pecuniary benefits. to his family members.
Another case involves Asthana’s alleged contacts with Undesirable Contact Men (UCM), a term used for questionable characters in agency parlance. The foremost among them being Upendra Rai, who is charged with money laundering and under the Official Secrets Act.
Sources close to Asthana, however, said there was no question of any inquiries against him in ongoing CBI cases. “If there was any inquiry, permission under Section 17A of the Prevention of Corruption Act needed to be taken and to date no summons or notice for any inquiry had been sent to him,” a source said. “The government has not been informed that there was any ongoing inquiry against him. The only matter which was sent to the CVC at the time of his promotion in the CBI was dismissed by the CVC and subsequently by the Supreme Court when a PIL was filed.”
Asthana’s complaint reportedly alleged that Verma had stopped searches in the IRCTC scam involving former Railway Minister Lalu Yadav.
“The allegation of preventing raids against the accused in the IRCTC case is absolutely false. The investigation of the case has resulted in filing a chargesheet before the designated court. This could not have been possible without the explicit approval of the director CBI,” the agency statement said.
The agency also told the CVC that two “frivolous and motivated” PILs were also moved in the Supreme Court this year carrying similar allegations which were dismissed, they said.
The CVC should opine on the maintainability of the complaint and consider it malicious and frivolous in order to protect the integrity of the organisation, the statement from the agency said.
The battle within the agency began with the Director not being allowed to appoint a few officers of his choice within the agency. Soon it spiraled into a full-blown controversy when in October 2017 the CBI Director opposed the promotion of then Additional Director Asthana to the post of Special Director.