Triggering allegations from the Opposition of “snooping”, four operatives of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) were held Thursday morning outside the official residence of CBI Director Alok Verma, who was asked to go on leave by the government Tuesday night along with the agency’s Special Director Rakesh Asthana following a bitter fight between the two.
Home Ministry officials, however, said the IB men were on “routine” duty and not “spying” on Verma. The four, who were rounded up by Verma’s personal security officers around 6 am, were later handed over to Delhi Police before the IB confirmed their credentials.
The incident led to dramatic scenes, with each operative being held by at least two of Verma’s guards — in one case by the collar — and taken into Verma’s bungalow. Sources said the four had been seen in their cars outside Verma’s residence since Wednesday night, raising suspicions.
“The IB is entrusted with the responsibility of collecting intelligence on situations that may affect public order and internal security. Among other things, its units are routinely deployed in sensitive areas… One unit, in the early hours of today, halted at Janpath where there was an unusual collection of people,” a government official said.
“This is a high security zone… Unfortunately, their presence was projected otherwise,” another official said. The CBI’s chief’s residence is close to those of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and NCP chief Sharad Pawar.
However, Mallikarjun Kharge, leader of Congress in Lok Sabha, said it was “extremely worrying and alarming to find that IB officers are snooping and keeping an eye on (an) officer sent on leave”.
“One must answer publicly as to what are the reasons behind this snooping? Is the PM trying to scare the dissenting voice of an officer and giving message of similar consequences to others? Or is the PMO scuttling the probe with the sole aim of preventing the truth of the reported corruption in the Rafale fighter jets purchase,” he said.
The Home Ministry has sought a report on the incident and asked the IB Director to look into the protocol of collecting intelligence in sensitive areas by deploying its agents.