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Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Rakesh Asthana, at centre of row while in CBI, made BSF chief

The government has transferred chief of Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D) V S K Kaumudi. Under him, BPR&D had prepared a comprehensive report on fake news and shared it with police forces across the country in May.

Written by Deeptiman Tiwary | New Delhi | Updated: August 18, 2020 8:04:19 am
CBI vs CBI, CBI bribery case, bribery case against Rakesh Asthana, Rakesh Asthana, India news, Indian ExpressAsthana, until now, was the chief of Bureau of Civil Aviation Security, along with holding additional charge of Narcotics Control Bureau, which he continues to hold. (File)

The government on Monday appointed 1984-batch Gujarat cadre IPS officer Rakesh Asthana as the new chief of Border Security Force (BSF).

Asthana, until now, was the chief of Bureau of Civil Aviation Security, along with holding additional charge of Narcotics Control Bureau, which he continues to hold.

Asthana, who as special director in CBI clashed with the agency’s then director Alok Verma, has been cleared in a case of corruption, registered by his former boss — in February, CBI cleared Asthana of all charges.

Asthana and Verma were both forced to go on leave, and finally moved out of CBI in 2018.

Announcing his appointment by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet, a government order on Monday stated that Asthana would continue to hold his current post till his superannuation on July 31, 2021, or “until further orders”.

Incumbent CBI chief R K Shukla’s tenure is due to end in February 2021.

Apart from this, the government has also transferred incumbent chief of Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D) V S K Kaumudi. The 1986-batch Andhra Pradesh cadre IPS officer has been appointed Special Secretary (Internal Security) in the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Under Kaumudi, BPR&D had prepared a comprehensive report on fake news and shared it with police forces across the country in May. The detailed guideline on how to spot and combat fake news cited multiple examples of such misinformation, including fake news on the role of Muslims in spreading coronavirus in the backdrop of the Tablighi Jamaat incident.

One instance of fake news cited by the report mentioned the purported “Tablighi Jamaat Chief’s Leaked Audio On Covid 19”. The Indian Express had reported that a Delhi Police initial probe had found this audio clip to be doctored.

Delhi Police had denied the report then. The BPR&D report was eventually pulled down from its website for “correction”. It has not been uploaded since.

Another appointment announced is that of 1986-batch IPS officer Jawed Akhtar as DG, Fire Services, Civil Defence and Home Guard. The UP cadre officer was until now posted in CRPF.

Akhtar replaces Andhra Pradesh cadre IPS officer M Nageswara Rao in his new post. Rao, former acting chief of CBI, now retired, was recently in news for his social media post in which he blamed education ministers such as Abdul Kalam Azad for distortion of Indian history, and whitewashing of Mughal invasions.

Asthana has had diverse experience in service, having served both in state government and at the Centre, where he served twice in CBI. During his first stint in the agency, he investigated the fodder scam, which resulted in conviction of former Bihar chief minister Lalu Yadav.

In Gujarat, he served in crucial posts such as Vadodara’s police commissioner under then CM Narendra Modi.

At the peak of the turf war within CBI, its then director Alok Verma had registered an FIR against Asthana on October 15, 2018, alleging that a suspect in the Moin Qureshi case had been forced to pay Rs 2.95 crore to Asthana through two middlemen to water down the case against him. The suspect, Sathish Sana Babu, was made a witness in the case by CBI.

He has been cleared of all charges.

The incident precipitated such a crisis that the government swooped down on the agency at midnight on October 21, 2018, and forced both to go on leave. Nageswara Rao was then handed over the charge of CBI temporarily.

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