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After Bribery Accused Gujarat-cadre Officer Rakesh Asthana Stripped Of Charge By CBI, Govt Moves To Take Away Charge Of CBI Director Alok Verma

Activists say it is to protect its own favourite officer to prevent the possibility of an inquiry into Rafale.

Just a few hours after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) closed in to clinch evidence on the role of its Special Director, Rakesh Asthana’s role in the bribery and money laundering case (allegedly extortion to fix cases) and stripped him of the charge for all the cases he was handling, the Centre in a panic, effectively took away the charge of the CBI from its Director, Alok Kumar Verma.

The order issued by the Centre late night read that the “Joint Director, CBI, Shri M Nageshwar Rao, IPS, presently working as Joint Director, CBI shall look after duties and functions of Director CBI and shall take over the duties and functions with immediate effect.”

Also read: In A First, CBI Books Its Special Director In Corruption Charges

The Indian Express reported this morning that “Asthana was also stripped of all his responsibilities at the agency yesterday. Asthana, a 1984 batch Indian Police Service officer of Gujarat cadre, is alleged to have demanded a bribe of Rs 5 crore from a Hyderabad-based businessman through two middlemen to help him get off the hook in the Moin Qureshi case. Verma also alleged corruption on Asthana’s part with regard to the Sterling Biotech case.”

After the Supreme Court intervened and laid down certain guidelines on the autonomy of the CBI, to ensure that it does not play the part of a “caged parrot”, guidelines, protecting the two-year tenure of its Directors have been well established. They are guaranteed to insulate the premier investigating agency from political interference, by giving the investigation agency a free hand.

Verma was appointed by a committee comprising the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. However, the induction of Asthana, a Gujarat cadre officer as Special Director had been contentious from the very start, with him seen as the blue-eyed officer of the tow top leaders in the BJP, PM Modi and party president Shah. He was also the officer who incidentally investigated the Godhra train burning in 2002, when Modi was the chief minister.

Till yesterday, handling sensitive cases like that of Vijay Mallya, Robert Vadra, Dayanidhi Maran and matters related to the Coal scam, he has had an FIR filed against him by the agency on corruption matters and his Investigation Officer (arrested) also charged with fabricating evidence in order to implicate his boss, the Director.

The Delhi High Court on Tuesday had called for a status-quo in the status of the petitioner, Rakesh Asthana, and rejected his plea for a stay on a possible arrest.

Said senior advocate and activist Prashant Bhushan, the lead petitioner in many cases that allowed the framing of new rules to protect the CBI’s autonomy; “As feared&suspected, the govt has removed the Director CBI from his charge, because he was pursuing corrupt Spl Director Rakesh Asthana who was foisted on CBI by PMO despite his being investigated by the CBI itself in corruption cases. Totally illegal. Will be Challenged.” He also alleged that the CBI Director, purportedly set on acting on the Rafale complaint could be the trigger for the unprecedented and change instituted by the government; “Apart from protecting Asthana from investigation, the Rafale complaint by Shourie, Sinha & myself, entertained by the CBI Director, must be another reason for the Govt to remove him with such alacrity by this midnight order,” Prashant Bhushan added.

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