Moving the Supreme Court to seek quashing of his transfer to Port Blair, CBI Dy SP Ajay Kumar Bassi, who was investigating a bribery complaint against the agency’s Special Director Rakesh Asthana, has referred to alleged phone intercepts in which one of the accused is purportedly heard saying “Asthana toh apna aadmi hai” (Asthana is our man).
Advocate Sunil Fernandes mentioned Bassi’s plea Tuesday before the bench of CJI Ranjan Gogoi and Justices U U Lalit and K M Joseph, requesting that it be taken up Friday. The court said it will look into it.
In his petition, Bassi, who was transferred to Port Blair shortly after CBI Director Alok Verma and Asthana were sent on leave by the government which named M Nageshwar Rao as interim Director, alleged that the statement of Hyderabad businessman Sathish Babu Sana, complainant in the FIR against Asthana, revealed “shocking details of alleged corruption and illegal gratification by Shri Rakesh Asthana, the then Special Director CBI, in collusion and conspiracy with other co-accused person namely, Shri Somesh Prasad and Shri Manoj Prasad and other unknown accused persons”.
“The said statement also reveals payment of huge amount to the tune of crores of rupees towards illegal gratification. The statement clearly implicates Shri Rakesh Asthana and Shri Devender Kumar, both officers of the CBI. The investigation conducted by the Applicant herein revealed that the act of demand and acceptance of illegal gratification primarily pertains to two distinct periods of December 2017 and October 2018. There are two instances of acceptance of bribe in Dec 2017 totalling to Rs. 2.95 crores and three instances of acceptance of bribe in Oct 2018 totalling to around Rs. 36 Lacs. All these five acceptances of illegal gratification were in the name of the same public servant namely — Shri Rakesh Asthana through the Prasad brothers,” Bassi alleged in his petition.
“Investigation further revealed role of another high ranking bureaucrat by the name of Shri Samant Goel, who is presently Spl Secretary of R&AW (Research and Analysis Wing),” the petition stated.
“During the investigation technical surveillance was also done and CDRs were also studied. Investigation revealed that immediately after the news broke out on arrest of Manoj Prasad in the late night on 16.10.2018, Somesh made immediate calls to Samant Goel, who made calls to Shri Rakesh Asthana,” Bassi alleged.
He said “during the investigation, the mobile phones” of Somesh Prasad were kept under surveillance. Referring to “certain calls between Somesh and Shri Samant Goel and between Shri Somesh and his father-in-law Sunil Mittal,” Bassi’s petition lists some excerpts:
- “Somesh tells Sunil Mittal: Asthana to Apna Admi Hai. Manoj has met Asthana 3 to 4 times. Samant bhai met Asthana after registration of the case. Samant bhai is very close to Asthana.
- Samant Goel tells Somesh: Do not come to India at any cost.”
Bassi said “these transcripts are available with the CBI but there is a strong chance that they may not place the same on record… The Applicant’s life liberty and dignity is under threat… All the evidences mentioned above are in the custody of the Central Bureau of Investigation and there is a suspicion that the same may be tampered with or destroyed”.
“It is unfortunate to note that the present Investigating Officer has concentrated his efforts not on the allegations of the FIR, but has started roving and fishing enquiry in the investigation made by the Applicant, and that too against the Applicant,” he said.
Expressing fears that “he will be made a scapegoat and victimised for discharging his duties in the FIR pertaining to Shri Rakesh Asthana”, Bassi urged the Supreme Court to “Quash/Set aside/Modify” his transfer order, “direct the CBI to place all evidence collected by the Applicant and others, including the transcripts of the technical surveillance… before this Hon’ble Court, in a sealed cover” and order formation of a Special Investigative Team to “conduct an impartial investigation into the” FIR against Asthana “under the overall supervision and control of this Hon’ble Court”.
Bassi was investigating not just the FIR registered by CBI on October 15 against Asthana but also the wedding of his daughter in Vadodara in 2016. Bassi had sent summons to different hotel owners who had provided venues for the wedding. He had questioned over a dozen people and received replies from four hotels.
In a communication to the CVC, Asthana had said that Bassi was an officer of “doubtful integrity” and had been sent to Vadodara on a roving enquiry into his personal life. He had alleged that Bassi had been given the task of somehow connecting him to Sterling Biotech Group owners Chetan and Nitin Sandesara.
Meanwhile, the CJI-led bench ordered police security for Sathish Babu Sana who, in his plea, apprehended threat to his life. The bench said “having considered the matter, we are of the view that all concerned authorities, particularly, the Commissioner/Superintendent of Police, Hyderabad shall afford to the applicant — Shri Sathish Babu Sana — all such protection/security etc. as would be necessary to safeguard the life of the applicant”.
The court, however, declined to stay the notice issued to Sana by the CBI asking him to join the investigation. He also wanted the agency to question him under the supervision of Justice (retired) A K Patnaik who will monitor the probe being conducted by the CVC into a complaint against CBI Director Verma.