Rakesh Asthana was the cop who arrested RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav
Rakesh Asthana, a top cop and special director of Central Bureau of Investigation can now take a deep breath as a plea challenging his appointment has been set aside by Supreme Court. Asthana, a Gujarat cadre IPS, was recently appointed as the special director of CBI. A noted NGO known as Common Cause challenged his appointment in the top court, citing the surfacing of his name in some high-profile cases. However, the government defended the appointment, saying Asthana brings with him a high profile career. The 56-year-old top cop has supervised over 40 high profile cases like coal scam, Kingfisher Airlines, AugustaWestland scam, black money and money laundering cases. Asthana is currently second in command in the CBI which is headed by director Alok Verma. Asthana is a 1984 batch police service officer. His top assignments include spearheading the special investigation team which probed Godhra’s Sabarmati Express burning in February 2002. Asthana was also a member of the team that investigated the fodder scam. The police officer has also served as the Commissioner of Police in Vadodara and Surat.
He has also been a part of the team which probed Bihar’s fodder scam case where RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav was an accused. Also, he is the officer currently investigating Yadav and family involvement in alleged irregularities carried out during latter’s regime as Railway Minister.
Asthana was Superintendent of Police in the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in 1994. He was entrusted with investigating the infamous fodder scam (chaara ghotala). After two years, a charge sheet was filed in the case in 1996 and Asthana was the cop who arrested RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav a year later. Asthana had also examined the case of Asaram Bapu and his son Narayan Sai.
Why was Asthana’s appointment was challenged in court?
Prashant Bhushan, on behalf of NGO Common Cause, had sought to quash of the appointment. Bhushan had dubbed Asthana’s new posting as ‘illegal’. Bhushan had alleged that Asthana’s name figures in a diary of Sterling Biotech, against which the CBI itself has registered an FIR. In August, CBI’s Delhi Unit had registered an FIR against three senior Income Tax Commissioners for accepting bribes from the Gujarat-based Sterling Biotech and Sandesara Group of Companies. The CBI FIR says there existed a “Diary 2011”. Some reports say that the diary also contained Asthana’s name.
The petitioner alleged that the government wanted to appoint its own choice as interim CBI Director “even if it meant bypassing the statutory law, the norms of propriety, and the directions contained in the Vineet Narain’s judgement”. “The judgment in Vineet Narain’s case had clearly held that the tenure of CBI Director would be two years. This was to ensure that there is no ad-hocism in the appointment and functioning of the CBI Director,” the petition had stated.