SC quips after Rakesh Asthana moves court against forced leave

Geraldine Edwards
October 28, 2018

It directed that interim CBI chief M Nageswara Rao shall not take any major policy decisions.

Such a situation is unprecedented in the five-decade history of the CBI, which was set up in 1963.

Asthana apparently made many enemies during his first CBI stint, but his role in the fodder scam, which cost Laloo the chief ministership, also endeared him to those on the other side of the political spectrum. Verma further said that there is a need for an independent CBI.

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The petition has been filed two days after Verma moved the court challenging the similar action against him by the government. Verma had challenged his removal since Centre can not arbitrarily do so because of the framework of 2-year fixed term of CBI director without any interference from the Centre.

Reacting to the order, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said that Supreme Court's order is a positive move and it will ensure fairness.

The feud between the CBI's top two - Alok Verma and Rakesh Asthana - escalated with each accusing the other of corruption.

The hearing commenced with Senior Advocate Fali S. Nariman drawing the attention of the bench to the Vineet Narain dictum of the apex court, on insulating the CBI against the government, which was transformed into a Law by virtue of the CVC Act of 2003 and amendments to the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act of 1946. It also said the CVC invoked its powers (under Section 8 of the CVC Act, 2003) of superintendence over the functioning of the DPSE (CBI), insofar as it related to the investigation of offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.

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The BJP, therefore, thought that the three-judge SC bench vindicated the Union government's stance, which thought the SC effectively allowed the CVC to finish its probe.

On Tuesday, the CBI suspended its DSP and an aide of Asthana, Devender Kumar, who was arrested on Monday on the charge of falsification of records while probing allegations against meat exporter Moin Qureshi. The previous investigating officer, Deputy SP A K Bassi, has been shunted to Port Blair.

Bhushan also urged the court to tag his petition with the one filed by Verma. Verma had also approved an FIR against Asthana for allegedly taking bribes of around Rs 3 crore and fabricating evidence to "impugn his reputation". On Monday, a CBI team had raided Asthana's office and arrested Deputy SP Devender Kumar, who is now in its custody.

What fuelled the feud in CBI?
The development comes a day after Verma was sent on leave following an ugly spat with special director, Rakesh Asthana. Verma, along with CBI Special Director Rakesh Asthana, was sent on leave by the government late on Tuesday.

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