Alok Verma vs Rakesh Asthana: Verma and Asthana have been engaged in a bitter battle which has cast a shadow over the credibility of CBI.
The tussle between Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Director Alok Verma and second-in-command Rakesh Asthana has snowballed into a major controversy with the Central government intervening in the matter and sending both the top officials of India’s premier investigating on leave. Joint Director M Nageshwar Rao has been appointed as the interim Director of CBI. Verma and Asthana have been engaged in a bitter battle which has not only cast a shadow over the credibility of CBI, but also gave Congress-led Opposition an opportunity to corner the BJP with the Lok Sabha Election just around the corner.
While both Verma and Asthana are busy in finalising their next moves, let’s take a look how things started and escalated to the present level.
In January 2017, a three-member selection panel headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi appointed the then Delhi Police Commissioner Alok Kumar Verma as Director of CBI. Back then Asthana was the interim director of the investigating agency. In October, 2017 Asthana was appointed as the Special Director of CBI by Appointments Committee of the Cabinet.
The fissure between the two appeared when Asthana’s appointment was allegedly received opposition from Verma who cited that Asthana’s name was cropped up in a graft case pertaining to a company in Gujarat.
However, Verma’s opposition failed to garner significant heed from Chief Vigilence Commissioner. Noted lawyer Prashant Bhushan filed a plea against Asthana’s elevation which was rejected by the top court.
The conflict between the two top bosses of CBI continued even as Asthana was heading investigations in high-profile matters like INX Media case against former Union Minister and Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram, multi-crore bank fraud cases involving Vijay Mallya. In July, Verma did not let Asthana represent him in meetings.
Letter to Cabinet Secretary
The matter reached the threshold of the central government after Asthana wrote a letter to the Cabinet Secretary alleging that Verma received a bribe of Rs 2 crore in a case that involves controversial meat exporter Moin Qureshi. The Central Vigilance Commission started a probe into the matter.
A few days back CBI booked the Special Director Asthana was booked under Section 13 (2) read with Section 13(1)(d) (criminal misconduct) of Prevention of Corruption Act and Section 7 (public servant taking gratification other than legal remuneration in respect of an official act) his alleged involment in a case that involves Qureshi.
What future holds out
The matter has now reached the threshold of courts. The Supreme Court has said it would hear the plea of Verma challenging the Centre’s decision to divest him of powers and send him on leave. The hearing will be held on October 26. On the hand Asthana got a relief when the Delhi High Court directed the CBI to maintain status quo on the criminal proceedings initiated against him.