Court shows displeasure over CBI probe in Asthana case

CBI vs CBI: Why accused with bigger role in bribery case roaming free, asks Court

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A Delhi court Wednesday expressed displeasure over CBI's investigation into a bribery case involving its former Special Director Rakesh Asthana, who was given a clean chit, and asked as to why an accused with "bigger role in the case was roaming free" while the probe agency arrested its own DSP.

The court was anguished that Someshwar Srivastava, whose name had cropped up during the investigation, was not arrested in the case but CBI's DSP Devender Kumar was arrested in 2018 and later got bail.

Srivastava is the brother of Dubai-based businessman and alleged middleman Manoj Prasad, who is one of the main accused in the case.

In its charge sheet filed Tuesday, the agency has not arrayed Srivastava as an accused. However, the CBI said probe is on to ascertain his role in the case, along with certain other persons.

Along with Asthana and Kumar, the CBI has also given clean chit to RAW chief S K Goel, who was under the scanner in the case, sources said.

While perusing the charge sheet, the judge asked, "Why Srivastava not arrested? Manoj Prasad seems to be a weaker link. Why Srivastava is roaming free? 'Itni nazar-e-enayat kyun (why so much mercy)?' You arrested your own DSP, without considering his career, which might have been ruined. You curtailed his life and liberty while Srivastava is enjoying his life."

"Why are certain accused who seem to have a bigger role in the case were roaming free while the CBI has arrested its own DSP," asked Special CBI Judge Sanjeev Aggarwal.

The CBI said the probe was on to ascertain Srivastava's role and a supplementary charge sheet might be filed.

It further added that a Look Out Circular (LOC) has already been issued to prevent Srivastava from leaving the country.

At this, the court said, "What is LOC? Nothing. India is huge. He is enjoying his life. It's very strange that main persons are roaming at large . He is the principal actor. There are more evidence against him than Manoj."

The judge put up the matter for further consideration on February 19, saying that he might call the previous Investigating Officer of the case if required.

Asthana, who was never arrested, and Kumar were named in column 12 of the charge sheet in the case since there was not enough evidence to make them accused.

The CBI registered the case against Asthana on the basis of a complaint from Hyderabad-based businessman Satish Babu Sana, facing probe in a 2017 case involving meat exporter Moin Qureshi.

During the hearing, the names of Asthana and Goel, who have been given clean chit by the CBI, did not come up for deliberations.

Prasad was arrested on October 17, 2018 and got bail on December 18 the same year.

The CBI's failure to file a charge sheet within the mandatory 60-day period had in December 2018 led a Delhi court to grant statutory bail to Prasad.

The trial court had on October 31, 2018 granted bail to Kumar, arrested on October 23, after the agency chose not the oppose his application.

Sana, in his complaint to the CBI, had alleged that he paid a bribe of Rs 2 crore to Asthana to be spared of any action in the investigation linked to Qureshi and the money was paid over a 10-month period -- starting from December 2017.

Sana was being investigated by a special investigation team (SIT) of the CBI, headed by Asthana, when he had accused him for accepting bribes.

The agency had arrested Prasad in the case when he returned from Dubai on October 17, 2018. It was alleged by Sana that Prasad and his brother Someshwar had taken Rs 2 crore to arrange a clean chit to him. 

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