n a unique move, the CBI has reportedly raided its own headquarters as informed by several news agencies. It’s stated that the CBI has booked its own Special Director Rakesh Asthana in a bribery case pertaining to the meat exporter and hawala operator Moin Akhtar Qureshi. He started his business in 1993 after opening a small slaughterhouse at Rampur in Uttar Pradesh. It may be recalled that in 2014, during the election campaign, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had suggested that due to Sonia Gandhi’s protection, Qureshi was not investigated despite being on the radar of the Income Tax Department. There were allegations that Qureshi was close to two former CBI directors — A P Singh and Ranjit Singh. He is supposed to have exchanged messages with Singh and this had come under the scanner of the IT department and the Enforcement Directorate.
Asthana is the main accused in the FIR filed last week and RAW special director Sumant Kumar Goel has also been mentioned in it but not as an accused. The CBI has also arrested its own DSP Devender Kumar, who was the Investigating Officer in Qureshi’s case. He is alleged of forging the statement of Satish Sana who has claimed that he has paid the bribes to settle the case against him. Sana was also an accused in the Moin Qureshi case. Sana has complained that so far he has paid Rs 3 crores to the CBI Special Director as bribe since last year. It’s to be noted that Moin Qureshi was raided by the IT department in 2014 and his Blackberry Messenger communication with the former CBI Director A P Singh led to Singh resigning from his position in UPSC.
This is not the first time that Asthana landed in a controversy. The NGO Common Cause had gone to the court challenging Asthana’s appointment as the Special Director on the grounds that his name had figured in a 2011 diary seized from Sterling Biotech – a company being probed by the CBI for money laundering. Asthana was not named in the FIR but was presumably the subject of an on-going investigation by his own agency. CBI has reportedly executed the action against its own officials and the Special Director on the basis of several money trails, telephonic intercepts, call records, messages, and statements made before a judicial magistrate under section 164. The agency has informed the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) that it is investigating its own Special Director under five different cases of corruption. Against this, Asthana has written to the government that the present CBI Director Alok Verma, who is his boss, is trying to malign his image and stop him from the functioning. But the situation seems to be grim for him as the High Court has denied quashing the FIR against him. The CBI Director has also curtailed his powers.
This long-running feud between Alok Verma and Rakesh Asthana has been marked by allegations and counter-allegations of corruption and interference in high-profile cases. In October last year, Asthana was elevated to the position of No. 2 at the CBI by a selection committee headed by the CVC. CBI Head Verma had opposed Asthana’s elevation on the ground that he was being probed in a corruption case related to Sterling Biotech, a Gujarat-based company. Asthana accused Verma of trying to thwart investigations in important cases, including one concerning the IRCTC scam in which RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav and family are the accused. The CVC sought files of various cases from the CBI to probe the allegations. However, the CBI issued an official statement defending Verma and criticising Asthana. The CBI termed Asthana’s complaint to the CVC against Verma as ‘intimidation’ of the officers probing Asthana’s role in at least five cases. Questions were raised on whether Verma could use the CBI to defend himself against personal allegations. Asthana also wrote to the cabinet secretary and the CVC accusing Verma and his right-hand man additional director AK Sharma of trying to save accused persons in several cases. Corruption is not new to CBI. All are power mongers and do not work for the institution. The CBI has been functioning very worst since the days of Late PM Indira Gandhi and that led to it being termed as “Congress Bureau of Investigation”. Since BJP came to power, the same CBI is termed as “Caged Parrot”. The credibility of the CBI is compromised by its own representatives and corrupt authorities.
If the agency would have been really manipulated as blamed by the Opposition, things would have been different and would have been settled differently. The High Court has told the agency to keep the status quo till 29th of this month, which means Asthana will not be arrested for a week now but the investigations are on and it would be definitely interesting to see how it goes further. One thing is for sure that the CBI does not look to be a Caged Parrot these days and has the liberty to investigate any accused or suspect, be it their officer. Corruption is not new to CBI. All are power mongers and do not work for the institution. Apparently, this seems to be cross-firing between Verma and Asthana; once Asthana had made allegations against Verma, the latter had to act and is proceeding systematically by first arresting a Deputy before moving against Asthana.
Meanwhile, the media reports claim that PM Modi has met both Verma and Asthana, though there is no confirmation yet on this. The CBI arrest of DSP Devender Kumar came after the meeting. Asthana moved to the Delhi High Court against lodging of the FIR and sought prevention of any coercive step against him. The court has given an interim relief to Asthana, ruling that he could not be arrested until the case comes up for hearing. There have been unconfirmed reports of Verma planning to suspend Asthana and also the government planning to send Asthana back to Gujarat. Rakesh Asthana comes from Gujarat cadre and he is presumed to be very close to PM Modi, that’s why media addresses him as ‘blue-eyed boy of PM’. No doubt Rakesh Asthana is one of the credible officers and he has handled various cases as he was given the responsibility to investigate the Fodder Scam, a corruption scandal that involved the embezzlement of about Rs 9.4 billion (equivalent to Rs 34 billion or $540 million in 2017) from the government treasury of the eastern Indian state of Bihar. He filed a charge sheet against Lalu Prasad Yadav in 1996. Lalu was arrested for the first time in 1997. Asthana caught DGMS Director General taking bribes in Dhanbad. By that time, this was the first case of its kind in the whole country, when the officers of the Director-General had come under arrest. Asthana had also examined the famous Godhra incident, which was constituted under the guidance of the Supreme Court, which was constituted under the leadership of RK Raghavan. Rakesh Asthana was given the responsibility of investigating the bomb blast on July 26, 2008, in Ahmedabad. He had settled the case within 22 days. Asthana had also examined the case of Asaram Bapu and his son Narayan Sai. The absconding Narayan Sai was caught on the Haryana-Delhi border.
Let’s see what is written ahead in the fate of CBI.
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