In a new twist to the ongoing battle in the CBI between its two top officers, Special Director Rakesh Asthana, booked by the agency in an alleged case of bribery, was stripped of all responsibilities at the agency Tuesday.
“The Special Director Shri Rakesh Asthana is divested of all supervisory charges with immediate effect,” said the order which was issued by CBI Tuesday.
As Special Director and No. 2 at the CBI, Asthana was heading a Special Investigation Team (SIT) which was responsible for some high-profile and sensitive cases. These include the AgustaWestland VVIP helicopter case, the Vijay Mallya case, coal-scam related cases, Robert Vadra case, former Haryana CM Bhupinder Hooda’s land allocation case and the Dayanidhi Maran case.
CBI sources told The Indian Express that “the taking away of cases was prompted by developments during the day, as evidence of serious criminal misconduct piled up. The extent of this would be revealed in due course”. The agency, sources said, continues its investigation into the corruption and bribery charges against Asthana.
The order stripping Asthana of all responsibilities comes a day after the CBI arrested a member of Asthana’s SIT, Dy SP Devender Kumar. The CBI moved a case for Kumar’s police remand for 10 days before a CBI Special Judge Tuesday. He was remanded in police custody for seven days.
The CBI Special Judge rejected the contention of Kumar’s counsel that his arrest is a violation of Section 17A of the Prevention of Corruption Act as there is no prior approval from the competent authority. In the order, the judge said that prior approval is not needed as “the alleged conduct does not relate to any recommendation or decision taken by the accused/public servant in discharge of his official duties, being investigating officer of that case, because the case is still pending investigation”.
The CBI had also accused Kumar of “falsification of records” which was used in a complaint by Asthana against CBI Director Alok Verma. Earlier, Kumar was named as Accused No. 2 in the FIR which also named Asthana as Accused No. 1.
The FIR was registered last week on a complaint filed by Hyderabad businessman Sana Sathish Babu. In his complaint following two statements under Section 164 of CrPC before the magistrate, Sana alleged that Dubai-based Manoj Prasad and Someshwar Prasad allegedly struck a deal for Rs 5 crore on behalf of Asthana. The bribe was meant to get him “relief” from the CBI SIT headed by Asthana in the Moin Qureshi case, in which Sana was a witness.