Detailed Analysis: Alok Verma, Rakesh Asthana removed from their CBI posts; M Nageshwar Rao appointed; Insights of Moin Qureshi case

Oct 25, 2018 11:40 IST
Government removes CBI Director Alok Verma from his post; appoints M Nageshwar Rao

In a dramatic midnight action, the Union Government on October 23, 2018 removed CBI Director Alok Verma and Special Director Rakesh Asthana from their posts.

While divesting Director Verma of his charge, the government and the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) cited that Verma had not been cooperating with the CVC’s inquiry into allegations made by Asthana against him through a letter on August 24 to the Cabinet Secretary. Verma was appointed as CBI Director in 2016 for two years and his tenure ends in December 2018.

The decision was announced by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC). The decision came after the ongoing tussle between CBI Chief Alok Verma and Special Director Rakesh Asthana escalated over bribery allegations, hurled at each other.

Alok Verma’s reaction after his removal from the post

Senior IPS officer Alok Verma approached the Supreme Court on October 24, 2018 after his removal from the post of CBI Director by the Union government and the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC).

He claimed that this overnight decision was in violation of Section 4B of the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act, 1946, which grants the CBI Director a secure term of two years. The Supreme Court will now need to examine the government and the Central Vigilance Commission move.

M Nageshwar Rao appointed as CBI Director

The Appointments Committee also issued an order appointing M Nageshwar Rao, presently working as Joint Director at the CBI, as Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

Rao will take over the duties and functions of CBI Director with immediate effect. Rao, a 1986 batch Odisha cadre officer, joined the CBI as Joint Director and was promoted as Additional Director in 2018 itself.

Rakesh Asthana's removal

On October 15, 2018, the CBI booked Asthana for alleged corruption following the FIR registered against the latter for alleged extortion of more than Rs 3 crore from Sathish Babu Sana in a case against meat exporter Moin Qureshi, who has been accused of taking money from several people for getting favours from senior government functionaries.

Suspension and arrest of DSP Devender Kumar

The CBI also suspended its Deputy Superintendent of Police Devender Kumar, who was arrested on the charge of falsification of records while probing allegations against meat exporter Moin Qureshi and was sent to CBI custody for seven days.

Kumar is an Investigating Officer in a case against Qureshi, who is facing multiple cases of money laundering and corruption.

Arguments presented by CVC and Government over Verma’s removal

The Central Vigilance Commission and the Government both opine that they have the power to remove CBI Director of his office to save the credibility of the institution. They quote Central Vigilance Commission Act and the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act to show they can exercise “superintendence and control” over the agency in an “extraordinary and unprecedented” situation.

They quote Section 4(1) of the DSPE Act which allows the commission to supervise investigation of offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. The DSPE Act gives the Centre the power of superintendence over the CBI “in all other matters.”

Arguments presented by legal experts against government’s action

As per Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, the Central Vigilance Commission cannot curtail CBI chief’s tenure.

The legal experts refer to Section 4B (2) of the DSPE Act which mandates that the CBI Director cannot be transferred without the consent of a high-power Committee chaired by the Prime Minister that appoints the Director. Director’s removal requires consent of this committee.

CBI versus CBI: Accusations against Asthana and Verma

Asthana, a 1984 batch Indian Police Service officer of Gujarat cadre, is alleged to have demanded a bribe of Rs 5 crore and accepting Rs 2 crore from a Hyderabad-based businessman Sathish Babu Sana through two middlemen Manoj Prasad and Somesh Prasad to help Sana get clear of his charges in the Moin Qureshi case. The case was being examined by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by Asthana.

On the other hand, CBI chief Verma also alleged corruption charges on Asthana with regard to the Sterling Biotech case.

However, Asthana hit back by writing to the Cabinet Secretary saying that Verma received Rs 2 crore bribe in the Moin Qureshi case and had tried to stop a raid on Lalu Prasad in the IRCTC case, alleging corruption on Verma’s part.

Six cases of corruption against Asthana

On September 21, 2018, the CBI informed the Central Vigilance Commission that it was investigating Asthana in six cases of corruption including two FIRs related to the Vadodara-based Sterling Biotech case.

In 2016, a pre-wedding party for Asthana’s daughter’s marriage was hosted at a farmhouse owned by Sterling Biotech, company owned by Nitin Sandesara and his brother Chetan Jayantilal Sandesara.

In October 2017, Sterling Biotech had taken loans of over Rs 5383 crore from a consortium led by Andhra Bank, which later turned into Non-Performing Assets. The CBI had booked Sterling Biotech, its directors Chetan Jayantilal Sandesara, Dipti Chetan Sandesara, Rajbhushan Omprakash Dixit, Nitin Jayantilal Sandesara and Vilas Joshi, CA Hemant Hathi, and former Andhra Bank Director Anup Garg.

In September 2018, the CBI got in touch with the Interpol in Nigeria to locate the Sandesaras, who have operations in Nigeria, Mauritius and the UAE. The Enforcement Directorate took cognisance of this FIR to file a money laundering case and during its raids, it got leads on Asthana.

Rakesh Asthana and the cases handled by him

  • Rakesh Asthana is a 1984-batch Gujarat cadre IPS officer and served as Vadodara Commissioner of Police during 2008-11.
  • He holds a track record of handling several high-profile cases beginning with the fodder scam of Bihar (RJD Chief Lalu Prasad was convicted in one of the cases), Godhra train burning case of 2002, 2008 Ahmedabad bomb blasts; and cases related to Asaram and his son Narayan Sai.
  • Recently, Rakesh Asthana was heading probe in cases of AgustaWestland, coal scam and also that of businessman Vijay Mallya.

Timeline: Removal of Alok Verma and Rakesh Asthana

August 24

CBI Special Director Rakesh Asthana writes to Cabinet Secretary, informing him that Alok Verma took Rs 2 crore bribe from businessman Sathish Babu Sana

September 14

Asthana informs CBI that Verma has issued orders to remove him from IRCTC and INX Media cases

September 20

Special Investigation Team headed by Aasthana proposes to interrogate Sathish Babu Sana

October 3

Sana appears before the CBI

October 15

CBI booked Asthana and Sana for alleged corruption; Alok Verma filed a case against Rakesh Asthana, accusing him of taking Rs 3 crore as bribe from Sana.

Sana accepted that he agreed to pay Rs 5 crore to Asthana as bribe to give clean chit to Moin Qureshi

October 19

Asthana removed from Special Investigation Team

October 21

PM Modi summons Alok Verma

October 22

CBI raids its own office and arrests DSP Devender Kumar in connection with allegations against Asthana

October 23

Central Vigilance Commission divested Alok Verma and Rakesh Asthana of their CBI posts  

October 23

Asthana approached the Delhi High Court to get CBI's FIR against him quashed

October 24

Alok Verma moved the Supreme Court against his removal and pressed for an urgent hearing

Moin Akhtar Qureshi case and his association with CBI Directors

Moin Akhtar Qureshi is a meat exporter from Kanpur. From his meat business, he has established more than 25 companies spreading across sectors including construction and fashion in last 25 years.

He is currently facing multiple investigations, ranging from tax evasion to money laundering and corruption. He is also accused of bribing government officials, including CBI officers and politicians.

Allegations against Qureshi date back to 2014, when it was found that he visited the then CBI chief Ranjit Sinha’s residence at least 70 times in over 15 months. Hyderabad-based businessman Sathish Babu Sana told the Enforcement Directorate in 2017 that he had paid Rs 1 crore to Qureshi to get bail for his friend in a CBI case through Sinha. Resultantly, Sinha came under the CBI scanner. However, Sinha, who headed the CBI from 2012 to 2014, denied all charges.

Later in 2014 itself, it was discovered that Qureshi exchanged messages with another CBI director AP Singh, who headed the agency from 2010 to 2012. The income tax department and the ED probed the matter initially and in February 2017, the CBI booked Singh to probe his links with Qureshi. Singh too has denied all charges against him.

Now, Qureshi costed Alok Verma’s job after Asthana alleged that Verma took Rs 2 crore bribe from Sathish Babu Sana to relieve Qureshi, while Verma filed an FIR against Asthana alleging that he took Rs 3 crore from Sana.

Central Bureau of Investigation

  • The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is the premier investigating agency of India.
  • Operating under the jurisdiction of the Union Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, the CBI is headed by the Director.
  • The Director is an IPS officer with a rank of Director General of Police or Commissioner of Police (State) and is appointed for a term of two years.

Appointment of CBI Director

The Delhi Special Police Establishment Act empowers a high-power Committee to appoint the Director of CBI. The committee comprises:

  • Prime Minister (Chairperson)
  • Leader of Opposition
  • Chief Justice of India or a Supreme Court Judge recommended by the Chief Justice

Jurisdiction of CBI

Section 6A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act covers investigations to be carried out by the CBI, if an offence is alleged to have been committed under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, with a prior approval of the Central Government.

The CBI investigate cases that flow from the DSPE Act. The Central Government has the power to extend the jurisdiction of the CBI to any area, except union territories, that falls within the geographical boundaries of our country, subject to the consent of the state concerned.

Removal process of CBI Director

In the Vineet Narain judgment, the Supreme Court had fixed the tenure of CBI Director to be a minimum of two years so that the officer could work with independence.

As per the Supreme Court order, “the Director of CBI shall have a minimum tenure of two years, regardless of the date of his superannuation. This would ensure that an officer suitable in all respects is not ignored merely because he has less than two years to superannuate from the date of his appointment”.

The apex court had also ruled that the director can be transferred only in “extraordinary” circumstances with the approval of Selection Committee comprising Central Vigilance Commissioner with the Home Secretary and Secretary (Personnel) as members.

Affidavit filed by Government: As per the affidavit submitted in the Supreme Court by the government during hearings on coalgate scam case, the CBI director is appointed by a collegium comprising of the Prime Minister, Chief Justice of India and Leader of the Opposition. The CBI director cannot be appointed or removed without the consent of this collegium.

As per the affidavit, the CBI Director can be removed before expiry of fixed tenure of minimum two years on the ground of misbehaviour only. The President can issue such an order only after an inquiry.

 

 

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