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.
(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.
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.
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.