Exposing the fault lines in India’s top investigating agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has written to the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) saying that its second most senior officer, Special Director Rakesh Asthana, does not have the mandate to represent its chief, Director Alok Verma.
That’s not all, it has informed the CVC that several officers being considered for induction in the agency “were under examination by the CBI as suspects/ accused in criminal cases under investigation with the Bureau”.
Pointing out that Asthana is himself “under (the) scanner” in several cases, the agency has conveyed that in order to “maintain organizational integrity”, he “cannot be consulted for inducting officers into CBI” in the absence of the Director.
The agency has also asked for “sufficient time in advance” to conduct “due diligence checks” on officers being proposed for induction.
The CBI spokesperson did not respond to calls and text messages from The Indian Express seeking comment. The CVC, CBI Director and CBI Special Director did not respond to text messages from The Indian Express.
The issues raised by CBI assume significance at a time when it is probing several politicians in the run-up to the general elections next year. In a separate case this month, the Supreme Court diluted the protection given to Enforcement Directorate joint director Rajeshwar Singh from a probe on charges of corruption — Singh is probing the controversial Aircel Maxis case.
The CBI’s concerns were conveyed in two letters sent by its policy division in response to a telephone call from the CVC on July 10, informing it about a meeting of the CBI selection committee on July 12.
The letters, issued by the division with the “approval of the Director, CBI”, informed the CVC that it had not received any formal agenda for the meeting.
It reminded the CVC about its past concern of holding selection committee meetings at such short notice without an agenda. The CBI said that it “had already expressed its concern on May 18th, 2018 vide letter.. wherein it was requested that CBI be given sufficient time in advance to conduct due diligence checks on the officers/ candidates being proposed for induction”.
The agency noted that “in the previous CBI Selection Committee meeting, names of officers who were being considered for induction in CBI were under examination by the CBI as suspects/ accused in criminal cases under investigation with the Bureau”. It said that apart from a letter sent on July 6, “this was also formally conveyed in the previous CBI Selection Committee meetings as well as during the monthly meetings held between the CVC and the CBI”.
Citing Section 4C of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946, as amended by the CVC Act, 2003, which explicitly states that “the committee shall consult the Director before submitting its recommendations to the Central Government”, the CBI letter asked for a postponement of the July 12 meeting to any date after July 19.
CBI director Alok Verma was abroad on an official tour that day, attending an Interpol conference at Punta del Este in Uruguay.
When the CVC asked over the telephone for the officer holding charge of CBI director — referring to Special Director Asthana who is next in seniority — to attend the meeting, the CBI wrote a second letter stating that “the charge/ powers of Director, CBI have not been given to” Asthana.
This letter by the policy division stated that the “issue was discussed with the Director CBI over telephone”, and that Asthana’s “role is under scanner of this bureau (CBI) in certain cases”.
The letter also referred to the case of UP-cadre IPS officer, Jyoti Narayan, currently Joint Director General in Bureau of Civil Aviation Security, for induction into the CBI, linking him to Asthana.
“It has been observed that, during investigation in one of the cases that the name of Sh. Jyoti Narayan, IPS (UP-1996) for the post of Jt. Director in CBI was being pursued by the Special, Director CBI,” the letter said, adding that Narayan “was being examined for his role as a suspect in a criminal case being investigated by the CBI”.
The role of the CVC-chaired selection committee had come under the spotlight after Asthana became the CBI Special Director last year. The committee, at the time, chose to ignore a note from CBI director Verma pertaining to corruption allegations and objecting to Asthana’s name.