War at CBI: Govt silence, inaction leads to crisis

CBI Special Director Rakesh Asthana. PTI file photo.

Even as the CBI claimed that extortion was being done in the garb of investigations, its Special Director Rakesh Asthana and Deputy Superintendent of Police Devender Kumar on Tuesday were slapped with charges of extortion and forgery in the FIR against them in a corruption case.

The CBI’s move came as Asthana and Kumar knocked on the doors of Delhi High Court separately challenging the FIR and the latter’s arrest, with both sides intensifying the turf war.

While Asthana, the CBI second-in-command who is at loggerheads with Director Alok Verma, sought a direction from the high court that no coercive action be taken against him, Kumar, who was arrested on Monday, challenged his arrest in a separate plea.

The high court did not stay the ongoing probe but directed the CBI to maintain status quo on the criminal proceedings initiated against Asthana till next Monday while a local court sent Kumar to seven days’ CBI custody, saying the offences were “grave” in nature.

The CBI promptly suspended Kumar following his remand even as it informed the local court that it has invoked Sections 384, 388, 389 (all related to extortion) and 468 and 471 (related to forgery). The CBI had earlier invoked charges of criminal conspiracy and relevant sections of Prevention of Corruption Act.

The agency registered a case against Asthana and others on October 15. Kumar, earlier the investigating officer in a case involving meat exporter Moin Qureshi, was arrested on allegations of forgery in recording the statement of businessman Sathish Sana. Sana alleged that he paid a bribe to get relief.

Sending Kumar to CBI custody, the court said, “Considering the gravity of offence and seriousness of allegations about the involvement of public servants, including the accused, I am of the opinion that police custody of Kumar is necessary for proper investigation.” The court also rejected the contention that prior permission was needed for Kumar’s arrest. Earlier, Kumar’s lawyer claimed that he was “falsely implicated” and was a “victim of rivalry” between two officers. He also claimed that there was a big conspiracy to derail the case against Qureshi because two former directors are involved. Former CBI directors A P Singh and Ranjit Sinha are facing CBI cases in connection with charges against Qureshi.

In the high court, while giving Asthana relief from arrest, Justice Najmi Waziri also sought response of the probe agency and its Director Verma and Joint Director A K Sharma as well as the DoPT, which is the CBI’s administrative arm.

The judge also turned down the plea of Asthana’s counsel seeking to stay further proceedings in the matter. “Nothing will happen. Tomorrow is Maharshi Valmiki’s birthday, nothing will happen,” Justice Waziri said while directing CBI not to “disturb the equilibrium”.

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War at CBI: Govt silence, inaction leads to crisis

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