New Delhi: With the Centre intervening into the power struggle within the CBI, questions are now being raised about the fate of several high profile cases involving opposition leaders that are being investigated by the agency. With the 2019 general elections just a few months away, the opposition may cry foul that the CBI is being misused by the Narendra Modi government to tackle political rivals.
According to the Indian Express, at least four former chief ministers, a former Union minister, several state ministers and senior politicians are being probed by the top investigative agency for their alleged corrupt activities. Almost a dozen cases that are being investigated by the CBI involve politicians from opposition parties. Some of the high-profile cases also involve Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi and are reportedly at a critical stage of investigation.
Opposition parties on Wednesday had criticised the Centre for intervening into the CBI’s internal power struggle, calling it a ‘systematic dismantling’ of the agency. The Congress accused the Modi government of using the CBI to dig up old cases against opposition leaders instead of letting it act independently.
Among the former chief ministers who are being probed for corruption are Virbhadra Singh of Himachal Pradesh, Bhupinder Singh Hooda of Haryana. Hooda is being investigated for the National Herald case and is alleged to have ordered restoration of an institutional plot at Panchkula to Associated Journals Ltd at old rates.
Harish Rawat, the former Uttarakhand chief minister, is being probed for purportedly offering bribes to rebel Congress lawmakers. The details of these allegations surfaced through a sting operation that was conducted during a floor test. The fourth chief minister being investigated is RJD supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav, along with his son Tejaswi Yadav. They are under investigation for the IRCTC scam.
Former Union minister P. Chidambaram and his son Karti Chidambaram are being probed for corruption in the INX Media case and foreign exchange violation cases. According to o the Indian Express, Delhi health minister Satyender Kumar Jain is also facing corruption charges involving the hiring of a creative team for PWD. The agency is also questioning several AAP ministers.
From left: Rakesh Asthana, Narendra Modi, Alok Verma. Credit: PTI/The Wire
The Saradha scam, involving a number of top TMC leaders such as Sudip Bandopadhyay, is under the CBI’s scrutiny. The TMC leaders are also being investigated for their role in the Narada sting operation case and Rose Valley chit fund scam.
Before Alok Verma took charge as the CBI’s director, an SIT was set up in June 2016 to probe key corruption cases involving politicians. It was headed by Rakesh Asthana, who has also been sent on leave, but is said to be close to top BJP leaders. The SIT began investigating the Agusta Westland scam, in which top Congress leaders are allegedly involved, Mallya’s loan default case, the ambulance scam in Rajasthan allegedly involving former chief minister Ashok Gehlot, former Union minister Sachin Pilot and Karti Chidambaram.
The CBI is also probing Uttar Pradesh’s National Rural Health Mission scam. Top BSP leaders are said to be involved in this case and the agency has also questioned the party’s supremo Mayawati.
Seven crucial cases
According to the Indian Express, at the time of Verma’s ouster, seven crucial cases were on his table. These include the alleged Rafale scam, a complaint on which was filed by former Union ministers Arun Shourie, Yashwant Sinha and senior advocate Prashant Bhushan. The Wire has reported that Verma’s interest in the case could have been a crucial factor in the decision to remove him.
The spat between Asthana and Verma was reportedly triggered by the CBI’s investigation into the role of IAS officer Bhaskar Khulbe, secretary to the prime minister, in the allocation of coal mines. While the team investigating the case wanted Khulbe to be named as an accused, Asthana insisted that he is presented as a witness.
The agency has been looking into the role of highly-placed individuals in the Medical Council of India bribery case, which has implicated retired high court judge I.M. Quddusi. The chargesheet against Quddusi, according to the Indian Express, had been prepared and was ready for Verma’s signature.
Another high court justice, S.N. Shukla of Allahabad, was being probed for allegations of corruption in medical admissions. He had been identified as being fit for investigation by the CBI, following which he was sent on leave. A preliminary enquiry had been prepared and was set to begin pending Verma’s signature.
Other cases that were awaiting Verma’s green light were complaints against finance and revenue secretary Hasmukh Adhia, made by BJP MP Subramanian Swamy, a Delhi-based middleman allegedly involved in bribing politicians and officials for “senior Public Sector Unit appointments” and the CBI probe into role of Asthana in the Sandesara and the Sterling Biotech case.