In a first such case in the history of the Central Bureau of Investigation, the two top bosses, Alok Verma and Rakesh Asthana, have been "divested of all powers" as a bitter spat between them intensified. Though the Centre is yet to issue a detailed statement, PTI quoted sources confirming that both these officials have been "divested of their powers" till the probe is underway. The government on late Tuesday sent these two officials on leave and appointed Nageshwar Rao as the interim CBI director.
Along with Director Alok Verma and Special Director Rakesh Asthana, few other officials were also asked to go on leave. Besides, the two floors of the CBI's New Delhi headquarters, including Verma and Asthana's offices, have also been sealed. Other officials sent on leave include Arun Sharma, the joint director of policy and anti-corruption within the CBI, and Manish Sinha, a deputy inspector general-level officer.
"The appointment committee of the Cabinet has approved that during the period of the subsistence of the aforesaid interim measure (of sending Asthana and Verma on leave), cited in reference above, 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," Lok Ranjan, Additional Secretary to the Prime Minister-led Appointments Committee, said in a communication. The current order seems to have sidelined all the three top-ranking officials in the CBI, including additional director AK Sharma, who was also named by Asthana in his complaint.
Though the building is open, PTI reported that officials or outsiders were not being allowed as a team of officers was conducting the investigation. The reason behind sealing the entire two floors is because offices of other CBI officers believed to be close to either Verma or Asthana are also located on these floors.
Nageswar Rao, an Odisha cadre Indian Police Service officer of the 1986 batch, would oversee all cases being investigated by Asthana. Before joining IPS, he did his graduation from the Osmania University and further research work at IIT-Madras. Nageswar Rao was first appointed as a sub-divisional police officer in Odisha's Talcher area, which at that time was a hotbed for coal smuggling and criminal activities, in 1989-90.
The case pertains to a bitter spat between Alok Verma and Rakesh Asthana, who was recently booked by the CBI on the basis of claims made by a businessman, Sathish Sana, that he accepted Rs 3 crore as bribe in meat exporter Moin Qureshi case. Interestingly, Asthana had accused CBI Director Alok Verma of interfering in his work two months back. He had also accused Verma of accepting Rs 2 crore from Sana and conspiring against him.
Sana, who was probed by Asthana himself, had alleged he was asked to pay a bribe of Rs 5 crore by Manoj Prasad, an investment banker based in Dubai, to get relief from repeated summons and a clean chit in the Moin Qureshi case. On Sunday, the CBI claimed Sana appeared before a magistrate and said he made payments between December 2017 and October 2018 to Manoj Prasad, who cited his purported connection with Asthana to ensure relief for him. Manoj Prasad was held on October 16 when he was returning from Dubai, though the FIR against Asthana does not mention that he ever paid the bribe to Asthana.
Edited by Manoj Sharma