CIRCUMSTANCES alter cases. Just three months ago, the CBI had declared that Special Director Rakesh Asthana was facing investigation in six cases. But now, in a reply to a query from The Indian Express under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the CBI has said that Asthana is being probed in only one case.
In its RTI reply, the CBI said it is not investigating any case against Asthana other than the FIR filed on October 15 in which he is alleged to have received Rs 3 crore from Hyderabad businessman Sana Satish Babu in the Moin Qureshi case. On September 21, when the CBI was headed by Alok Verma, the agency had said, in an official press statement, that it was probing Asthana in six cases.
On October 10, The Indian Express filed an RTI application seeking details of the six cases mentioned in the press statement. On October 23, Verma and Asthana were asked by the government to proceed on leave after each accused the other of corruption and interference in investigations.
In September #AlokVerma said #CBI was probing #RakeshAsthana in six cases. In RTI reply to me, it now says only one case against Spl Director. JD Policy says have examined all files. I report @IndianExpress #CBIVsCBI https://t.co/wP7zGA1FjE
— Deeptiman Tiwary (@DeeptimanTY) December 21, 2018
Divesting the two of their responsibilities, the government appointed then Joint Director M Nageswara Rao as interim in-charge. The dispute involving Verma and Asthana, and the government’s move, is being heard in Supreme Court.
Less than 10 days later, on November 2, responding to the RTI application, the CBI’s Central Public Information Officer (CPIO), gave details of one case against Asthana under sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act and section 120 B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC.
The Indian Express filed an appeal under the RTI Act referring to the six cases and sought a clarification. In response, on December 5, the agency’s Joint Director Amit Kumar reiterated the CPIO’s reply. “…After examination of all the documents/ records produced, the undersigned is of the view that the reply given by AIG (P)-II & CPIO is in order,” he stated.
Again, on December 14, The Indian Express sent a questionnaire to the CBI spokesperson, questioning its statement in September about the six cases against Asthana. The spokesperson sought time until December 17 to respond but is yet to do so.
In its September statement, the CBI said: “It is stated that the CVC has sought for certain case files from the CBI on the basis of a complaint filed by the Special Director, CBI. In its response to the CVC letter, the Chief Vigilance Officer (CVO) of CBI has pointed out that the complaint is an attempt by the complainant to intimidate the officers of CBI who are investigating his role in at least half a dozen cases. The CBI said that 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.”
Following this statement, based on briefings by CBI officials, The Indian Express had reported on September 29 that the six cases include two FIRs related to the Sterling Biotech case; two FIRs related to the arrest of journalist Upendra Rai; an FIR regarding the recent searches made by the agency on a caterer at the Palika Services Officers’ Institute (PSOI) in Delhi, and a case of corruption registered against Dipesh Chandak, an approver in the fodder scam case.
Sources close to Asthana have maintained that the CBI under Verma was dragging his name into these cases as a result of their fallout and that the CBI did not have any evidence to implicate him.