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Move afoot to oust special director Rakesh Asthana: CBI official

In an escalation of the battle at the top in the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), agency chief Alok Verma is laying the ground for the removal of his deputy Rakesh Asthana from the bureau over the registration of a bribery FIR against him, a CBI official familiar with the matter said on Sunday.

“Asthana’s position in the CBI has become untenable after the FIR. Verma will write to the ministry of personnel, the administrative ministry of the CBI, on Monday seeking Asthana’s removal,” said the official cited above.

For the first time in the history of the CBI, the agency booked its own special director Rakesh Asthana on October 15 on the basis of a complaint from a Hyderabad-based businessman Sana Satish Babu who claimed that two brothers, Manoj Prasad and Somesh Prasad, who were acting on behalf of Asthana, sought Rs 5 crore from him to get relief in a case supervised by the agency special director. The complainant also claimed to have paid money to the Prasad brothers.

Verma and Asthana have been openly feuding with each other since October last year when Verma tried to stall his promotion as special director on the grounds that his name figured in a diary of the Gujarat-based company Sterling Biotech where some entries totalling Rs 3.8 crore were allegedly found against his name. Since then charges and counter-charges have been traded between the two officers over a series of probes and internal transfers. Asthana formally made a complaint to cabinet secretary Pradeep Singh on August 24 saying Verma was interfering in probes carried out by him and gave the example of Sana Satish Babu.

The CBI in a formal statement said the allegation that the agency chief was not aware of a lookout circular (LoC) issued against Sana Satish Babu was incorrect.

Read: CBI chief, joint director sent officers to Gujarat to frame me, special director Asthana told CVC

Asthana in a note to the cabinet secretary had stated that Verma was not aware that an LoC has been issued against Sana Satish Babu. “DCBI [director, CBI] had seen and ratified the proposal to issue LoC,” said the statement.

The statement further said: “Contention that Director, CBI made an attempt to stop arrest of Shri Sana is false and malicious. The allegation has been made to deflect the charge of receipt of bribe money by CBI Special Director Shri Rakesh Asthana and the other public servant named in the FIR. The case against the public servants relates to transactions beginning in December, 2017, in a case registered in Feb 2017, whereas the arrest proposal was moved only on 12.9.2018.”

Rakesh Asthana was not available for comments.

The CBI didn’t seek any prior sanction before registering a case against Asthana and DSP Devendra Kumar.

On the requirement of a prior sanction to register a case against a public servant under Section 17 (A) of the amended Prevention of Corruption Act, a CBI spokesman said: “A legal opinion was obtained in this regard which said Aection 17 (A) applies to situations where the officer concerned has taken decision during discharge of his official functions and not when allegations of bribery are levelled.”

In a complaint to the cabinet secretary, Asthana alleged that he had learnt from his sources that Babu paid Rs 2 crore to the CBI director for avoiding any action by the agency against him. Asthana’s complaint was sent on August 24, two months before the registration of a CBI FIR accusing the special director of trying to get Rs 5 crore from Sana Satish Babu through middlemen.

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