Govt curtails tenure of CBI’s Rakesh Asthana, three other officers
Rakesh Asthana, once in line for the top job at the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), was moved out of the investigating agency on Thursday evening, closing a bitter chapter in the history of the bureau that saw him wage an internecine battle with his boss Alok Verma, who too was moved out on January 10, just 21 days before he was due to complete his tenure.
Asthana, who was special director at the agency, was not available for comment, but people familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity that he might be given a new assignment as director general of the bureau of civil aviation security, a post that is vacant at the moment.
A government order said Asthana’s tenure at the investigation agency was being curtailed. The same order also named three more CBI officers whose tenure has been curtailed.
Joint director Arun Kumar Sharma and deputy inspector general Manish Kumar Sinha, both of whom were seen to be close to Verma and investigated Asthana on charges of bribery, were also removed.
While Sharma is a Gujarat cadre officer of the 1987 batch, Sinha belongs to the Andhra cadre and is from the 2000 batch of the Indian Police Service (IPS).
The government order said the tenure of all these officials is being curtailed with immediate effect following approval from the appointments committee of the Cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi with home minister Rajnath Singh as its other member.
Superintendent of police-rank officer Jayant J Naiknavare , a 2004 batch Maharashtra cadre officer, is the fourth officer whose tenure has been curtailed. He was posted in the Mumbai branch of the agency, looking after corruption cases.
Asthana’s exit comes days before the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led selection panel is to decide on the agency’s next full-time boss. M Nageswara Rao has been heading the investigating agency as an interim measure, triggering protests from the Congress party which has alleged that the government does not want a CBI chief who can act independently. A petition was moved in the Supreme Court against the interim appointment of Rao, which the top court has agreed to hear next week.
Asthana, a 1984 batch IPS officer of the Gujarat cadre, wrote to the cabinet secretary on August 24, levelling allegations of corruption against Verma. The cabinet secretary sent the representation to the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) for further verification. CBI, on October 15, filed a first information report against Asthana, accusing him of corruption. As the fight between Verma and Asthana escalated, the government stepped in on October 23, divesting both of their powers.
Verma moved the Supreme Court against the government order and the top court on Janaury 8 held that the government should have followed due process and dealt with the issue through the selection panel headed by the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice of India and leader of the largest party in Opposition in the Lok Sabha. The court conditionally reinstated Verma and asked the panel to look at the CVC report.
The panel, through a 2:1 majority (Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge dissented), removed Verma from the CBI on January 10. It said he would complete his residual tenure till January 31 as the director general of fire services, civil defence and home guards.
Verma said he had already reached his retirement age while at CBI and declined the post. Asthana too moved the Delhi high court, seeking the FIR against him to be scrapped, but the court denied his request.