Officers spar in court over case on Verma, Asthana
Two investigating officers (IOs) in the bribery case involving former top officials of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) sparred in a special court on Friday. The case relates to the feud between former CBI director Alok Verma and his deputy, special director Rakesh Asthana, who accused each other of corruption.
First to draw blood on Friday in the special CBI court hearing the case against Asthana was former IO AK Bassi, who accused the current IO Satish Dagar of shielding “big names” in the case. Bassi claimed that Manoj Prasad, one of the suspects in the case, had revealed these names during his questioning in October 2018, but their involvement hadn’t been probed by Dagar.
Dagar hit back, saying: “I have better credentials than you in the organisation. Don’t level personal allegations. I summoned you six times, why didn’t you appear if you wanted to assist in the investigation?”
Dagar also questioned how Bassi had known about details of the investigation conducted by the agency when he had been IO in the case only between October 15 and 23, 2018. “How has he infiltrated our investigation,” Dagar said, referring to comments by Bassi in court that the agency had checked phone records of suspects in the case.
Bassi wanted to submit an additional note on his findings in the court, which was opposed by Dagar and the CBI lawyer present in the court. “Why is he submitting new documents when none of these was in his case diary? He cannot submit allegations or documents on the basis of hearsay,” said Dagar.
Special CBI judge Sanjeev Aggarwal then intervened. “You both are in the same agency. You both have to go back there. Don’t wash your dirty linen in public. The institution is bigger than an individual.”
“If required, I will again call both of you for further clarification, but not together,” the judge said, and posted the matter for further hearing on March 7.
A controversial case against Asthana was filed on October 15, 2018, and the case remained with the first IO until October 23, 2018. The CBI registered the case against Asthana on the basis of a complaint by Hyderabad-based businessman Satish Sana, facing probe in a 2017 case involving meat exporter Moin Qureshi.
The allegation was that Asthana had agreed to shield Sana in the probe in return for bribes. Asthana made his own allegations of corruption against Verma.
Sana, a close aide to Qureshi, was arrested on July 27 last year by the Enforcement Directorate in a money laundering case.
In October 2018, the feud between Verma and Asthana became public, forcing the government to intervene in the matter and transfer both officers. Verma was removed as the head of CBI on January 10, 2019, by a high-level selection committee and made director general of fire services, civil defence and home guards; he declined the posting and put in his papers.