Adding another twist to the ongoing tussle between CBI Director Alok Verma and the agency’s second seniormost officer Rakesh Asthana, it has emerged that besides filing complaints against Verma, Asthana has also complained about his junior colleague, Joint Director A K Sharma. Sharma happens to be the lead investigator in the internal inquiry being conducted by the country’s top investigative agency against its Number Two, Asthana.
As reported by The Indian Express on Friday, the CBI is probing Asthana in as many as six cases of alleged corruption. These are part of different ongoing cases in the CBI, where Asthana’s name reportedly cropped up during the probe. The CBI statement also said Asthana was maligning the Director’s image and trying to “intimidate” officials by sending a “frivolous” complaint to the Central Vigilance Commission against Verma.
In his complaint, apart from allegations against Verma, Asthana also levelled serious allegations of corruption against Sharma. He alleged that Sharma’s family members were running shell companies.
The six instances against Asthana were placed on record in July 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.
These internal enquiries, sources said, are part of the ongoing CBI investigation into other existing cases where Asthana’s role is also under scanner.
The internal investigations headed by Sharma, also a Gujarat-cadre officer like Asthana, pertain to cases such as the Rs 5,000-crore Sterling Biotech case which was registered by CBI on the request of Income Tax department to probe their officials after I-T vigilance had indicted I-T officials on bribery charges. The Enforcement Directorate had then raided the firm and recovered documents — diaries with entries of Asthana’s name.
It is being investigated that as Additional Director of CBI, Asthana tried to allegedly influence and deflect income tax proceedings against the directors of Sterling Biotech. Another allegation relates to Asthana’s family members allegedly using private flights chartered by the businessmen chargesheeted by CBI in the Sterling Biotech case and receiving other pecuniary benefits.
Sources close to Asthana have said there was no question of any inquiry against him in the 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 told The Indian Express.
But sources close to Verma say that the Sterling Biotech case has already been registered as RC by the CBI and the accused include “unknown public servants”. The permission to act against Asthana under the Prevention of Corruption Act, sources said, “will be taken at the time of filing the chargesheet”.
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