The sudden death of Ghaziabad provident fund scam prime accused Ashutosh Asthana under mysterious circumstances has come as a blow to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
The agency was about to “crack” the case and file a chargesheet against the accused.
In his confessional statement, Asthana had allegedly named several sitting and retired judges, including those of Allahabad High Court and district courts in Uttar Pradesh, besides an apex court judge as beneficiaries of the fraudulent withdrawals.
On the last date of hearing on September 8, Attorney General GE Vahanvati had, on behalf of the CBI, told the court that the investigations into the case were almost over and the agency was only waiting for reports from the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL).
The CFSL was examining 21,000 documents and 6,000 specimen signatures.
“I am not in favour of filing the chargesheet in a piecemeal manner,” Vahanvati had said, adding once the forensic reports were made available to the CBI the agency would file final reports (chargesheets). Vahanvati is assisting the court in this case as amicus curiae (court’s friend).
The court asked the CBI to place before it within four weeks the fresh status report on the progress made into the probe and the case was scheduled to come up for hearing in November.
The Supreme Court had transferred the probe into the case to the CBI on September 23, 2008, on a petition filed by Ghaziabad Bar Association, which said the local police might be ill-equipped to probe the matter. The CBI has so far filed four status reports about the case to the court.
Given the seriousness of the allegations, Chief Justice of India KG Balakrishnan had allowed the CBI to question even sitting judges through questionnaires.
The SC was also considering transfer of the trial to Delhi.
‘Asthana feared for his life’
Ashutosh Asthana, prime accused in the Ghaziabad PF scam, feared for his life.
And he had twice expressed his apprehensions before a trial court in Noida. Asthana had filed applications before the special CBI judge hearing the case.
“But, nobody paid heed to his applications in which Asthana had specifically mentioned threat to his life,” said Nahar Singh Yadav, on whose application the Supreme Court had on September 23, 2008, transferred the case from UP police to the CBI. He intends to move the apex court on Tuesday for a “thorough probe into the death by a special investigating team”.