Interim CBI director M Nageswar Rao, who took over the charge of the agency after its No 1 and No 2 were sent on leave by the government in October, was on Tuesday promoted to the rank of an additional director by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet.
Interestingly, Rao, a 1986 batch officer of the Odisha cadre, was not considered for the rank of the additional director in November 2016 when a review of this batch took place in April 2018. Rao had joined the CBI as a joint director in 2016.
Earlier, while hearing CBI Director Alok Verma’s petition challenging the October 23 government order sending him on leave and divesting him of all responsibilities, the Supreme Court had clipped Rao’s wings and told him not to take any policy decisions until further orders. Despite a restraining order, reports emerged last month that Rao passed an order on November 11 to close a case against chartered accountant Sanjay Bhandari and Income Tax officials.
Before being appointed interim chief, Rao was No. 3 in the pecking order and was handling the Chandigarh branch along with certain branches in South India. After his appointment, the Congress had questioned the reason behind him superceding other officials for the position.
“Is it correct that even the new CBI chief is under a cloud? Modi government has appointed its own crony as the new CBI Director. Does it not demolish the government’s argument of cleansing the system,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala had said.
Rao, who was awarded the first Chief Minister’s award for Excellence in Governance and Innovation in Public Service for his outstanding work during Phailin and Hudhud cyclones in 2013-14, also grabbed headlines after records maintained by the Registrar of Companies (RoC) pointed to a series of financial transactions between his wife and Angela Mercantiles Private Ltd (AMPL), a Kolkata-based trading company, from financial years ending 2011 to 2014.
RoC records show that Rao’s wife, M Sandhya, borrowed Rs 25 lakh from AMPL in the financial year ending March 2011. They show that between financial years ending 2012 and 2014, Sandhya gave loans amounting to Rs 1.14 crore to AMPL in three tranches — Rs 35.56 lakh in FY’12, Rs 38.27 lakh in FY’13 and Rs 40.29 lakh in FY’14.
However, the IPS officer refuted the charges of “unaccounted money” being held by his family, and clarified that due intimations had been given to competent authorities regarding the deal.
Rao, who was born in Mangapet village of Telangana, had his first posting in Odisha’s Talcher town in the late 1980s and he earned praise for cracking down on coal smuggling.
He served as the Superintendent of Police (SP) in four Odisha districts — Mayurbhanj, Nabarangapur, Bargarh and Jagatsinghpur. A chemistry postgraduate from Hyderabad’s Osmania University, Rao was reportedly the first law enforcement officer in Odisha to use DNA fingerprinting in crime investigation while probing a rape case in Jagatsinghpur district in 1996.
He was also SP, Railways, at Rourkela and Cuttack, as well as SP of the Crime Branch. In 2012, Rao was awarded with the Odisha Governor’s medal.