CBI No.1 & No.2 sent on leave; Rao is interim CBI chief

Stepping in to douse an unprecedented war within CBI, the Government has forced warring Director Alok Verma and his second-in-command Rakesh Asthana to go on leave while appointing senior IPS officer M Nageshwar Rao as interim chief of the premier investigating agency.

The government's move, described by several officers as a first in the agency, on late Tuesday night was immediately resisted by Alok Verma, who send an unambiguous signal that he will fight it out by rushing to the Supreme Court seeking relief. The apex court will hear the case on Friday.

Sources said the offices of both Verma and Asthana in the CBI headquarters were sealed and their drivers withdrawn after the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi cleared the file to remove the top-two from office. Both Verma and Asthana were "divested of all powers", they said.

Rao, a 1986-batch officer of Odisha cadre, "shall look after duties and functions of CBI Director and shall take over the duties and functions of the CBI Director with immediate effect", the order issued by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) said. While appointing Rao, the government also overlooked his three seniors in Additional Director rank, including A K Verma who is accused by Asthana of wrongdoing.


READ: War at CBI: Govt silence, inaction leads to crisis

 


The government's unprecedented move comes as the CBI plunged into an unprecedented crisis with Verma and Asthana locking horns and levelling charges and counter-charges. The latest crisis engulfed the CBI on October 15 register an FIR against Asthana and others in connection with bribery allegations while investigating a case involving controversial meat exporter Moin Qureshi.

The government also transferred 13 officers out of Delhi in "public interest" and this included Deputy Inspector General M K Sinha, who was supervising the investigation against Asthana, Deputy Superintendent of Police A K Bassi and Additional SP S Gurm.

Sources said the government decided the course of action as it was being accused of being mute spectators and doing nothing to control the warring officers. It was also speculated that top bureaucrats also sided with each officer, intensifying the war.

A section felt that the government intervention was late and it did not rein in the officers at the appropriate time. On Tuesday, former IPS officer Prakash Singh told DH that CBI was facing a "credibility crisis" and that the Ministry of Personnel, which controls the CBI, did not act on time.

CBI also arrested DySP Devender Kumar, who was part of Asthana-led Special Investigation Team (SIT), in the case on Monday and conducted searches in his office in The agency headquarters. On Tuesday, the CBI told a court that extortion is being done in the garb of an investigation.

Tightening the case against Asthana, the CBI also added extortionate and forgery charges to the existing FIR.

Verma and Asthana, whom the government intended to appoint as CBI Director but could not due to the the opposition, were at loggerheads for long.

The Director had opposed Asthana's promotion as Special Director last year citing investigations against him. Verma also wrote to Central Vigilance Commission that he cannot represent the CBI Director in his absence in meetings called to discuss appointments in the agency.

Hitting back, Asthana approached the CVC with a complaint against Verma citing charges like putting pressure on him at work while CBI issued a press statement to rebut the charges. The CBI then went to make it public that Asthana was being investigated in six cases. 

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CBI No.1 & No.2 sent on leave; Rao is interim CBI chief

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