- CBI Special Director Rakesh Asthana Cannot Be Arrested Till Monday: Delhi HC
- CBI Gets 7-Day Custody Of Deputy SP Devender Kumar In Bribery Case
- CBI Infighting Intensifies, DSP Arrested In Connection With Bribery Case Involving Rakesh Asthana
- CBI Books Its Own Special Director Rakesh Asthana For Accepting Bribe
- In Late Night Order, Govt Strips Alok Verma Of Its Charge, Appoints M Nageshwar Rao As Interim CBI Chief
Congress chief Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday alleged that CBI Director Alok Verma was forcibly sent on leave as he was collecting documents relating to the Rafale 'scam'.
CBI Director Verma and Special Director Rakesh Asthana have been "divested of all powers" amid an ongoing spat between them.
In a tweet, Gandhi said, "CBI Chief Alok Verma was collecting documents relating to the Rafale scam. He was forcibly sent on leave".
"The Prime Minister's message is very clear that whoever comes near Rafale (issue) will be removed, wiped out," he charged.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, however, has dismissed as "rubbish" allegations that Verma was removed because he wanted to look into the Rafale fighter jet deal.
He said the government's decision to remove Verma and Asthana is based on the Central Vigilance Commission's recommendations.
The Congress has been alleging massive irregularities in the Rafale deal.
The government has vehemently rejected all allegations.
Opposition attacks BJP on 'removal' of CBI director
The opposition on Wednesday attacked the Narendra Modi-led BJP government over the "removal" of Verma in the midst of a war at the top of the agency over bribery allegations.
"Modi government buries the last nail into the independence of CBI. Systematic dismantling and denigrating of CBI is now complete. Once a premier investigating agency, PM ensures that CBI's integrity, credibility and reliability is buried and dead.
"PM Modi seeks to achieve surreptitiously and clandestinely what he can't do directly to sack the CBI Director. Habitual and perpetual misuse of CBI by Modi government and BJP to tamper fair investigation of serious criminal cases is the reason for this unfathomable mess," Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said in a series of tweets.
Aam Aadmi Party supremo and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also questioned the authority of the government in taking this decision.
"What are the reasons for sending CBI director on leave? Under which law did the Modi government get the authority to initiate action against the chief of an investigating agency appointed as per the Lokpal Act? What is the Modi government trying to hide?" he asked in a tweet.
Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Sitaram Yechury also took to Twitter to criticise the central government's decision and deemed it as "illegal".
"The illegal removal of CBI chief by the Modi government to protect their own handpicked officer, against whom serious charges of corruption are being investigated, points to attempts at a serious cover-up to protect his direct links to the BJP's top political leadership," he said.
"To ensure that the CBI is not a caged parrot, Supreme Court had granted protection to the Chief from government's whims and fancies by giving him a two-year tenure. What is Modi government trying to hide by its panic move? #BJPCorruption," he added.
The Case So Far
In a late-night order, the government on Wednesday divested Central Bureau of Investigation ( CBI) chief Alok Verma of his charge and Joint Director M. Nageshwar Rao was asked to take charge as interim chief.
The development comes hours after Verma and his deputy Rakesh Asthana were sent on leave. According to the media reports, the offices of both Alok Verma and Rakesh Asthana have also been sealed.
"The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet has approved that during the period of the subsistence of the aforesaid interim measure, cited in reference above, Shri 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," the ministry of DoPT said in an order issued last night.
Earlier, on Tuesday the Delhi High Court sought that Asthana, who was named in a corruption case, cannot be arrested till Monday when his petition against the case will be heard again.
The court has also ordered the CBI to maintain status quo. The court asked Asthana to “preserve” all his electronic devices at the CBI’s request which had expressed concern about erasing evidence.
Asthana was booked on Monday for accepting bribe to settle a case against meat exporter Moin Qureshi, who is facing multiple cases of money laundering and corruption.
The country's top probe agency alleged that bribes were taken at least five times in December 2017 and October 2018.
Asthana, a 1984 batch Indian Police Service officer of Gujarat cadre, is accused of accepting a bribe of Rs 2 crore from a businessman who was under probe in the Qureshi case in order to "wreck" the investigation. The case was being examined by a special investigation team (SIT) headed by Asthana.
Sources said the CBI lodged the FIR earlier this week after the arrest of a middleman Manoj, who has given a confessional statement before a magistrate confirming the payment of Rs 2 crore to Asthana.
(With inputs from agencies)
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