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CBI vs CBI Saga: The Chronology

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The Central Beaureu of Investigation (CBI) is currently facing a power tussle between its top officials. As according to CBI officials, Rakesh Asthana has been booked for allegedly taking bribes to provide relief to businessman being investigated by him in a case involving meat exporter Moin Qureshi. While the Centre Vigilance Commission is also investigating the allegation of Rakesh Asthana alleging the businessman had paid CBI Director Alok Verma Rs 2 crore to get relief in the case. Asthana also wrote a letter Cabinet Secretary regarding this. Here’s the complete chronology of events:

Jan 19, 2017: GOI appointed Alok Verma (then Delhi Police Commissioner) as director of CBI. PM and CJI had cleared his name, Mallikarjun Kharge had objected his appointment on the ground that the officer had never served in CBI.

Sep 20, 2018: CVC initiated a fact-finding probe against CBI Director Alok Verma based on a complaint filed by Rakesh Asthana.

(Asthana alleged that Verma is trying to impede his functioning, interfere in investigations and malign his reputation on the basis of unverified facts. He mentioned calliig off against RJD chief Lalu Yadav. According to ET report, the Asthana’s complaint against Verma was first made to the government, which then referred the matter to the CVC after detailed consultations.)

Sep 21, 2018: CBI said Rakesh Asthana’s complaint to the CVC against its chief Alok Verma is “malicious” and “frivolous”. It termed complaint against CBI chief by Asthana as ‘intimidation’ of the officers probing the former’s role in at least six cases.

Sep 24: Alok Verma, senior CBI official met Central Vigilance Commissioner K V Chowdary and submitted some documents in the matter.

Oct 4, 2018: Lawyer Prashant Bhushan and former Union minister Arun Shourie met CBI Director Alok Verma, demanding a probe into alleged corruption in the Rafale aircraft deal and offset contract. Along with a “detailed” complaint under the Prevention of Corruption Act, Bhushan and Shourie submitted documents buttressing their argument for the need of probe.

Oct 16, 2018: The CBI arrested Manoj Prasad, believed to be a middleman in Moin Qureshi case, when he returned from Dubai on Oct 16.

Oct 21, 2018: CBI booked Asthana on the allegations of receiving bribe from an accused probed by him in a case linked to meat exporter Moin Qureshi – a charge levelled by the officer on CBI Director Alok Verma in his complaint to the Cabinet Secretary.

Oct 22, 2018: CBI arrests deputy SP Devender Kumar in bribery case involving Asthana. According to Qureshi the CBI, Kumar had fabricated the statement of Sathish Sana, a witness in the Quershi case, showing he recorded the statement on Septemebr 26, 2018 in Delhi. However, investigation has revealed that Sana was was not in Delhi, he was in Hyderabad on that day and joined the investigation only on Oct 1, 2018.

Oct 22: PM Modi summoned Alok Verma and Asthana. According to reports the two officials have been told to make amends as the image of the organisation has taken a beating in the public eye, a point opposition parties made in their criticism.

Oct 23: Rakesh Asthana moved Delhi HC on FIR against him in bribery case.

Oct 23: CBI DSP Devender Kumar sent to 7-day police custody.

Oct 23: CBI claimed in court that an ‘extortion’ racket was being run from the HQ in the garb of investigation.

Oct 23: Asthana gets interim protection from arrest till Oct 29.

Oct 24: CBI Director Alok Verma, Special Director Rakesh Asthana sent on leave. M Nageshwar Rao appointed interim CBI director with immediate effect.

Oct 24: CBI reshuffles team probing case against Asthana.

Oct 24: Alok Verma moves Supreme Court against govt order.

Oct 24: Opposition slammed government for sending Alok Verma on leave. Rahul Gandhi said by sending Verma on “forced leave” for collecting documents on the Rafale “scam”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given out a clear message that anyone coming close to unravelling the truth behind the defence deal will be “wiped out”.

Oct 25: Four IB officers were caught outside the official residence of Alok Verma. While Home Ministry officials said the four men were on “routine, covert” duties in the high security area outside Verma’s 2 Janpath residence, sources said they were taken away by police and questioned.

Oct 25: NGO moves SC challenging Alok Verma’s removal: A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Sanjay Krishan Kaul and K.M. Joseph said “we will see” as counsel Prashant Bhushan sought an urgent hearing as some broader issues have been raised in the PIL by NGO Common Cause.

Oct 26: After Alok Verma, Rakesh Asthana moves SC against forced leave.

Oct 26: CJI-led Bench hear Alok Verma’s plea against Centre’s move. SC set a deadline of two weeks for CVC to complete the inquiry against Alok Kumar Verma under the supervision of a retired SC judge and also barred IPS officer M Nageswara Rao, the interim CBI Director, from taking any policy decision or any major decision.

It said a list of decisions taken by Rao from Oct 23 till today, including transfer of investigations and change of investigating officers, be placed before the court in a sealed cover by the next date of hearing – after which it would pass appropriate orders.

Oct 29: HC slammed CBI, Centre for not filing reply on Asthana plea.

Nov 8: Alok Verma met CVC, denied corruption charges against him.

Nov 9: Alok Verma appeared before CVC, countered corruption charges.

Nov 12: After CVC submitted report, SC adjourned the court proceedings. A bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice S K Kaul took the report on record and fixed the next hearing on Nov 16. Interim CBI Director M Nageswar Rao also filed report on decisions taken by him since Oct 23 as head of agency.

Nov 16: SC heard CBI Director Alok Verma’s plea challenging govt’s order divesting him of his duties. SC ordered CVC to give CBI Director Alok Verma its report in sealed cover and asked Verma to respond by Nov 19.

The bench also said CVC has filed an exhaustive report. The report has been categorised and is very complimentary on some charges, not so complimentary some charges and very uncomplimentary on some charges. CVC report says some charges are required to be investigated and they need time.

Nov 19: CBI officer MK Sinha, probing FIR against Asthana moves SC, challenges transfer to Nagpur. He told SC through a petition that Union minister Parthibhai Chaudhary received “a few crores of rupees” as part of the ‘extortion racket’ being run by certain officers investigating the Moin Qureshi case.

M K Sinha, also alleged that NSA Ajit Doval, CVC K V Chowdhury and Union Law Secretary Suresh Chandra had made attempts to interfere in his investigations.

Nov 20:

(INDIA TODAY REPORT)

Supreme Court was supposed to examine Alok Verma’s response to the CVC probe against him. Remember that both the CVC’s probe report and Verma’s response are supposed to be secret.

When Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi reached his courtroom this morning, he was livid. Fuming, really.

CJI Gogoi had seen a news report about Verma and the CVC. And he was unhappy that the news report contained information that was supposed to be confidential.

‘LEAK’

So, when CJI Gogoi sat on his bench he handed Fali Nariman, who is Alok Verma’s lawyer, a printout of a news report.

“It [the printout] is for your eyes only. [We are] not giving it to you as the counsel for Alok Verma but for you as one of the most respected senior lawyers of the country,” CJI Gogoi told Nariman.

Gogoi questioned Nariman about how information supposed to be confidential had been “leaked” to the press.

We don’t think any of you deserve a hearing… For reasons which the court is not inclined to record, the hearing has been deferred

– CJI Ranjan Gogoi

Nariman told the court that he and his team had worked “all night” to prepare Alok Verma’s response to the CVC probe report. “Any information getting out was totally unauthorised.”

Nariman also said that while the press is free, it had to be “responsible” as well. “This is irresponsible press…This is very disturbing,” Nariman said.

A frustrated and visibly angry CJI Gogoi then refused to hear the case any longer. “We don’t think any of you deserve a hearing,” CJI Gogoi said. “For reasons which the court is not inclined to record, the hearing has been deferred. Will be taken up next on November 29.”

The printout of the news report on the CBI controversy was for Fali Nariman’s eyes only. But reporters present in the court sighted a clue: A logo of online news portal The Wire.

A brief check of The Wire’s website suggested that the news report that so riled the Supreme Court probably was a November 17 article titled ‘Exclusive: CBI Director Alok Verma’s Responses to CVC Put Modi Government in the Dock’.

That article, The Wire said in a series of tweets, was about “Alok Verma’s responses to questions the CVC put to him”.

“These were not in a sealed cover [read: confidential] and were not meant for the SC. As for his [confidential] response to CVC’s final report, handed over to SC in a sealed cover, we haven’t seen/reported that,” The Wire said.

Meanwhile, at the Supreme Court, CBI director Alok Verma’s lawyer Fali Nariman requested that he be allowed to clarify certain aspects.

The court agreed to hear him once it finished hearing the cases already scheduled.

And so, around an hour after CJI Gogoi angrily deferred the CBI vs CBI matter to November 29, the matter came up before his bench again.

This time around, Fali Nariman echoed The Wire’s statement, which was released before the second hearing.

Nariman told the court that the news report in question was not based on the response that Alok Verma filed in the Supreme Court on Monday.

ANOTHER LEAK?

Meanwhile, the CJI Ranjan Gogoi-led bench directed its ire towards another CBI officer — a deputy inspector general-rank officer Manish Prasad Sinha.

(Sinha was heading the CBI unit that was probing the corruption allegations against agency No. 2 Rakesh Asthana. Sinha was abruptly transferred to Nagpur after Verma was sent on leave and a new interim director took charge at the CBI)

On Monday, the same day Alok Verma filed his reply to the CVC probe report, Sinha moved the Supreme Court against his transfer order

Sinha’s lawyer requested an urgent hearing, saying the CBI officer had “shocking information”. “We are not shocked by anything,” CJI Gogoi told the lawyer and refused an urgent hearing.

The “shocking information” immediately became public. The allegations essentially were that National Security Adviser Ajit Doval had interfered in the probe against Asthana and that a Union minister had taken bribes

Today, the Supreme Court castigated Sinha’s lawyer over the media reports of the CBI officer’s petition.

“We expressed that highest degree of confidentiality should be maintained about everything” while rejecting your request for an urgent hearing, CJI Gogoi told the lawyer.

“[But] for some reason documents were distributed to the media… We told the officer we will hear you [just not urgently]… Today all newspapers are carrying the detailed report [of the petition],” CJI Gogoi said.

“This court is not a platform for people to come and express whatever. This is a place for adjudication of legal issues. We intend to set this right,” CJI Gogoi said, as he adjourned the CBI vs CBI case to November 29.

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Government presented weak side on dance bars in Suprme Court due to nexus: NCP

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Mumbai | The NCP on Thursday accused the Maharashtra government of presenting a weak side before the Supreme Court on the dance bar ban due to its alleged nexus with the association of bar owners.

It also demanded that Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis takes immediate legal steps to ensure that dance bars do not start operating in the state once again. “The government presented a weak side before the Supreme Court in the case due to the nexus between the government and association of dance bar owners. Because of
this nexus, the present situation has emerged,” NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik said.

Leader of the Opposition in the State Legislative Council Dhananjay Munde seconded Malik. “The government has once again fallen short in presenting its side on dance bar ban before the court. Concerned about effects of the decision in future. The government should immediately take legal steps to see dance bars do not start operating again,” Munde said on Twitter, tagging the Chief Minister’s office in the post.

The Supreme Court on Thursday paved the way for the reopening of dance bars in Maharashtra by setting aside some provisions of a 2016 law imposing restrictions on their licensing and functioning.

The apex court quashed the provisions of the Maharashtra Prohibition of Obscene Dance in Hotels, Restaurants and Bar Rooms and Protection of Dignity of Women
(Working therein) Act, 2016, like the mandatory installations of CCTV cameras in the dance bars saying they violated privacy.

The bench, however, upheld the provision restricting the timing of operation of dance bars from 6 pm to 11.30 pm.

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IITs, IISERs to mentor nearby schools in science & maths: Prakash Javadekar

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Prakash Javadekar

Ahmedabad | Union HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar on Thursday said the IITs, IISERs and universities in the country will mentor schools located close their campuses to ensure that students do not lag behind in mathematics and science subjects.

Highlighting the importance of subjects like science, mathematics, engineering and technology in the 21st century, he said it is vital to foster research tendency among students right from the primary schools.

“Maths can be taught in an entertaining way. For the students to study and understand maths and science properly, not very big equipment, but simple ideas are required. Hence, primary school teachers play a big role,” Javadekar told reporters here.

“We have decided today- the Modi government has also decided- that IITs, IISERs (Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research), large and good universities will mentor 10-15 nearby schools and ensure that students in those schools are given proper training in science and maths so they do not lag behind (in these subjects),” he said.

Javadekar was speaking on the sidelines of inauguration of exhibitions- one on futuristic technology and another by the American Museum of Natural History on the future of space exploration, at the Science City as part of the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit.

The minister said right pedagogy is required to cultivate the interest of primary school students in these two subjects. “Study shows that once students lag behind in maths or science, the gap increases and they fall behind further. Therefore, it is important how you explain science and mathematics to them,” he said.

According to him, the Modi government has taken many steps to promote the culture of innovation in the country by setting up innovation and incubation centres, allowing start-ups to run even from hostel rooms, launching IMPRINT India initiative, offering Rs 1 lakh per month to the PM Research Fellows, among others.

He said over 100 research projects are currently going on in Indian institutes and universities, and the government has so far set up 2,000 Atal Tinkering Labs and will establish another 3,000 such facilities across the country. He said participation in Smart India Hackathon has grown from 40,000 to 1.5 lakh in three years.

“On the basis of all this, I am sure our investment in research will grow, and an environment of science, engineering, technology, mathematics, research and attitude of innovation will start in schools…We are encouraging the tendency (among students) to explore solutions to the society’s problems,” he said.

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NGT slams Volkswagen for not depositing Rs 100 crore as per its 2018 order

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New Delhi | The National Green Tribunal (NGT) Thursday slammed German auto major Volkswagen for not depositing Rs 100 crore in accordance with its November 16, 2018 order and directed it to submit the amount within 24 hours.

A bench headed by NGT chairperson Adarsh Kumar Goel took strong exception to the non-compliance of its order by the automobile giant and asked it to give an undertaking that it will submit the amount by 5 PM Friday.

“Why have you not complied with our order when there is no stay. We will not give you any further time,” the bench, also comprising Justice S P Wangdi, said while asking Volkswagen to submit an affidavit of compliance after depositing the amount.

The apex tribunal also said that in case the amount is not deposited by Friday, the directors of the company will be sent to jail. The tribunal deferred the matter for hearing after it was informed that the Supreme Court is also seized of the issue.

A spokesperson of Volkswagen Group India said that all cars of the company are complying with the emission norms in India. “The Volkswagen Group reiterates that all cars from the group are compliant with the emission norms in India. The order of the NGT is already under challenge before the Supreme Court. However, the Volkswagen Group India will comply with the order of NGT and deposit the money, as directed,” Volkswagen Group India spokesperson said.

On November 16 last year, the tribunal had said that the use of ‘cheat device’ by Volkswagen in diesel cars in India leads to inference of environmental damage and had asked the German auto major to deposit an interim amount of Rs 100 crore with the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).

The NGT had said that even though the standards may be stricter in other countries, “the very fact of deceit devices being installed by the manufacturers calls for an inference of prima-facie violation of environment”.

The tribunal had constituted a joint team of representatives of the CPCB, Ministry of Heavy Industries, Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) and National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, to give its expert opinion on whether the manufacturer has exceeded the prescribed environmental norms and fair estimate of the damage caused to the environment.

The tribunal was hearing pleas filed by a school teacher, Saloni Ailawadi, and a few others seeking ban on sale of Volkswagen vehicles for alleged violation of emission norms. The tribunal had said ARAI found Nitrogen oxide emissions to be five to nine times higher than the laboratory test limits. The tribunal said that even if there is 100 per cent recall, for the past violation of norms, the auto manufacturer cannot avoid its responsibility.

A ‘cheat’ or ‘defeat device’ is a software in diesel engines to manipulate emission tests by changing the performance of the cars globally.Volkswagen India had in December 2015 announced the recall of 3,23,700 lakh vehicles in India to fix the emission software after ARAI conducted tests on some models and found that their on-road emissions were 1.1 times to 2.6 times higher than the applicable BS-IV norms.

The automobile giant had admitted to the use of ‘defeat device’ in 11 million diesel engine cars sold in the US, Europe and other global markets to manipulate emission test results.

After the tests by ARAI, Volkswagen India had undertaken to rejig the software by recalling around 3.23 lakh vehicles fitted with EA 189 diesel engines which were in alleged violation of emission norms.

The company, however, had said that the recall in India was purely voluntary in nature as it did not face any charges regarding violating emission norms in India unlike in the US.

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