In another chapter in the tussle between the top two officers of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the premier federal agency’s special director Rakesh Asthana has alleged in a fresh letter to the Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) that his boss, director Alok Verma, and joint director (JD) Arun Kumar Sharma, are trying to falsely implicate him.
The letter, sent to the CVC on October 15, states that Verma and Sharma have asked that he be framed in a Sterling Biotech case and, on their instructions, an officer of “doubtful integrity” is visiting places in Gujarat to “dig out anything” against Asthana.
In the latest episode of the war at the top in the CBI, the agency has registered a fresh FIR against Asthana, alleging that a middleman was seeking money on his behalf to scuttle a probe. The FIR was registered on the day Asthana sent the fresh letter to the CVC.
Asthana is a 1984-batch Gujarat cadre Indian Police Service (IPS) officer and has served in the state police in various capacities over the years.
The fight between Verma and Asthana started with the latter’s appointment. In 2017, the director objected to Asthana’s appointment as special director in the agency by promoting him from the rank of additional director on the grounds that Asthana was under probe in the Sterling Biotech case.
The spat got aggravated since then, with charges and counter charges traded between the two officers over a series of probes and internal transfers.
Matters came to a head when Asthana complained to the cabinet secretary on August 24 this year that Verma was interfering in probes, following which matter was referred to the vigilance commission, which monitors the CBI’s probes.
“Since the last about a month (sic), after my submission against Shri Alok Kumar Verma, DCBI and Shri Arun Kumar Sharma, JD (Policy), CBI, out of sheer vendetta and vengeance, these two officers have instructed the investigating and supervisory team of the case related to Sterling Biotech Dairy (RC 08 (A) of 2017 (Sandesara Group-IT Officials-AC-III) to investigate against the undersigned (Asthana) and somehow or other to implicate the undersigned in the case. Teams have been Vadodara, Surat and Ahmedabad, in order to dig out something against me irrespective of the fact as to whether the same is connected with the investigation of the aforesaid case or not,” says the letter Asthana sent to the CVC.
The letter, which has been accessed by HT, further says that an officer has been posted in the AC-III branch to specifically target Asthana.
It adds that the officer is “notorious for breaking rules and intentional insubordination” and is directly reporting to CBI chief Alok Verma in this regard.
The agency special director added that this officer is travelling with a personal section staff of Sharma with the instructions to find evidence of linking Asthana with the Sandesara case.
“(The two officers) are examining people in Vadodara and have issued notices under Section 91 of the Criminal Procedure Code as well, for production of documents pertaining to expenditure related to marriage of daughter of the undersigned which took place in 2016 and also guest list etc.,” states Asthana in the letter to the CVC.
He adds this exercise is illegal as the wedding took place in 2016 while diary allegations pertain to 2011, and also that he was not an accused in the case.
He further alleges that the “roving enquiry” with “no time limit” is a violation of the “fundamental right to privacy” of his family members, listing seven instances of digital, postal or physical monitoring, and has asked for a CVC-monitored investigation by a special investigation team.