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Friday, October 26, 2018

CAGED PARROTS

By on Friday, October 26, 2018

                                                                                    BACKGROUND OF TWO IPS OFFICERS



Alok Verma joined the IPS in 1979 at age 22 and was allotted to the AGMUT (Arunachal, Goa, Mizoram, UTs) cadre. He was the youngest officer in his batch. Prior to assuming the office of CBI Director, Verma had been Commissioner of Police, Delhi; Director General of Prisons, Delhi; Director General of Police, Mizoram; DGP, Puducherry and IGP, Andaman & Nicobar Islands. He is the only CBI Director to hold the top post without any prior experience in the agency. Rakesh Asthana, a 1984 batch IPS officer of the Gujarat cadre, has investigated many important cases, including the fodder scam case (during an earlier stint in the CBI) and the 2002 Godhra train burning when he was Inspector General in charge of Vadodara Range. His investigation into the fodder scam is regarded as key to the case resulting in the conviction of RJD chief Lalu Prasad. He is widely seen as being close to the current ruling dispensation. Let us understand how a director in CBI is appointed and how the others are appointed.
 HOW ASTHANA WAS APPOINTED
The former CBI director Anil Sinha retired on December 3rd, 2016. His deputy Rupak Kumar Dutta was widely speculated to be the next CBI director. But, just a day ahead, he was surprisingly shifted out of the CBI and made special secretary in the Home Ministry. Dutta who served for nearly 14 years in CBI was Special Director since 2014.
RAKESH ASTHANA SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN IN CBI
Rakesh Asthana, a 1984-batch Gujarat cadre IPS officer, is not new to the controversy and the corruption. Rakesh Asthana supervised the probe into the 2002 burning of the ‘Sabarmati Express’ train at the Godhra railway station. He was handpicked by the government to be the interim director of the CBI. On August 30, 2017, the CBI had registered an FIR against three senior Income Tax officials for allegedly accepting bribes from Gujarat-based Sterling Biotech and Sandesara Group of Companies. A “Diary 2011” was found in the company premises, which detailed a monthly payout to the accused officials, including income tax officials, policemen and politicians in Gujarat. Rakesh Asthana’s name figures in the diary of Sterling Biotech — CBI itself has registered an FIR. It seems that the present government is “hell-bent” on destroying the independence and integrity of the CBI. Asthana’s appointment for special director on October 22, 2017 had happened in controversial circumstances. The selection committee comprising the central vigilance commissioner (CVC) K.V. Chowdary whose own role was under question cloud in the investigations related to Sahara-Birla diaries; and two vigilance commissioners and the secretaries to the home ministry and the department of personnel and training (DoPT) appointed him unanimously. However, it was then reported that Verma had queried to Asthana’s elevation in the organization.
 While the CBI director was not a member of the selection committee, the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, under which the CBI operates, says that the director has to be compulsorily consulted before being appointed any person higher the rank above superintendent of police. However, the Supreme Court had then thought that it should not interfere in the government functioning, giving Asthana the benefit of doubt.
HE WORKED AS INTERIM DIRECTOR CBI FOR A SHORTWHILE
Rakesh Asthana, working as an Additional Director of CBI in April 2016, was given charge of interim director to the CBI for a brief period between December 3, 2016 and January 18, 2017 after Anil Sinha demitted his officeHe noted that merely two days before of Sinha’s retirement, the second-in-command at the CBI,  R.K. Dutta, who should have taken over as the interim director was transferred to the ministry of home affairs as special secretary (internal security). The transfer of Dutta was extraordinary benevolence as the post he was given “was specially upgraded from the level of joint secretary to the special secretary”. Asthana has always landed plush positions because of his proximity with the top brass in the Modi government.
 Rakesh Asthana has been allegedly influencing a coal scam case at the CBI in which the name of Bhaskar Khulbe , a West Bengal cadre IAS officer, who is now one of the most trusted lieutenant of Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, in the PMO had come up. Asthana is said to have taken a stance that Khulbe should be made a witness rather than an accused in the case. As secretary in the PMO, he (Khulbe) is one of Narendra Modi’s most trusted aides. He handles all the transfers and the postings of officials in Central Government, working closely with P.K. Mishra, additional principal secretary to the prime minister.
Rakesh Asthana’s soft stance against Khulbe in the case was “hardly a surprise, given his proximity to (P.K) Mishra in the PMO”. The report adds that Mishra, also a Gujarat cadre officer, had backed Asthana’s appointment as the special director in the CBI and ensured to the selection committee, headed by the CVC, K.V Chowdary, to appoint him unanimously despite the CBI director’s objections.
HOW A CBI DIRECTOR IS APPOINTED:
 Before the Lokpal Act was legislated, the CBI director was appointed by the DSPE Act. Now, the Lokpal Act governs the appointment of the CBI director. The process to select the CBI director is begun in the Home Ministry which prepares a list of IPS officers who are eligible for the post on the basis of their seniority and their experience in the field of probe. The MHA list is sent to the Department of Personnel where is prepared a final list on the basis of "seniority, integrity and experience in the investigation of anti-corruption cases". The search committee examines the names and recommends to the government for the appointment of CBI director. The decision of the committee could be unanimous or divided with a member recording the note of dissent. Earlier, under the DSPE Act, the CBI director was appointed on the basis of recommendation by a panel comprising the Central Vigilance Commission as chairperson, other vigilance commissioners, Home Secretary and Secretary (Co-ordination and Public Grievances the Cabinet Secretariat).The CBI director is appointed by the Centre on recommendation of a search committee comprising of Prime Minister as the chairperson, the Chief Justice of India and the Leader of Opposition. The Chief Justice of India can nominate a Supreme Court judge if he does not attend to the search committee meeting. In the absence of a formal Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, the leader of the floor of the largest opposition party (in present case Congress) takes part in the search committee meetings.
WHAT IS THE CAUSE OF CURRENT PROBLEM
 It traces its origins to events of mid-2017, when the government refused to appoint certain IPS officers into the CBI despite recommendations from the CBI Director. In October 2017, the CBI Director handed over a confidential note to the CVC during a panel meeting over the promotion of Asthana to the post of Special Director. The note alleged corruption on Asthana’s part with regard to the Sterling Biotech case of August that year; It alleged that according to a diary found on the premises of the company, Asthana was paid Rs 3.88 crore by the company (which in October came under probe for loan defaults of over Rs 5,000 crore). Yet the CVC panel unanimously cleared Asthana’s promotion, taking no record of Verma’s submissions. It said the allegations were not verifiable. In June this year, the Director targeted Asthana again, now through a letter to the CVC that said that Asthana could not represent him in his absence in a CVC meeting over CBI appointments. The Director said Asthana was being probed for alleged corruption. Asthana hit back by writing to the Cabinet Secretary in the month of August this year that Verma was interfering in his probes and had tried to stall a raid on Lalu Prasad in the IRCTC case. He also alleged corruption on Verma’s part. Less than two months later, Verma got an FIR registered against Asthana as an accused in a case of corruption.
WHAT ARE THE CHARGES AGAINST ASTHANA
 Asthana is alleged to have demanded a bribe of Rs 5 crore from a Hyderabad-based businessman through two middlemen to help him get off the hook in the Moin Qureshi case. CBI has alleged that at least Rs 3 crore had already been paid to Asthana through the middlemen. The agency claims that it has evidence, through WhatsApp chats between the middlemen and the businessman, of bribes having been paid. But the businessman seems to have never met or spoken to Asthana.
According to the CBI FIR, when a middleman offered to arrange a meeting in Dubai, the businessman refused. CBI has argued that, since this was a case of bribery and not of abuse of official position in connection with a decision taken on policy or otherwise, this would not be under the purview of Section 17A of the recently amended Prevention of Corruption Act. Section 17A says, “No police officer shall conduct any enquiry or inquiry or investigation into any offence alleged to have been committed by a public servant…, where the alleged offence is relatable to… (the) discharge of his official functions or duties, without the previous approval… of the government. …No such approval shall be necessary for cases involving arrest… on the spot on the charge of accepting or attempting to accept any undue advantage…”
 RAKESH ASTHANA DAUGHTER’S MARRIAGE- NEIGHBOUR’S ENVY, OWNER’S PRIDE
 The marriage of his daughter was a treat to eye and he reportedly got venue, catering, rooms and cars for his daughter’s wedding all on “complimentary basis” allegedly from at least a dozen persons including some loan-defaulters and fugitives. A day after Gujarat cadre IPS officer and number 2 in the CBI Asthana was named in an FIR for allegedly accepting bribe, a CBI team landed in Vadodara on Sunday to get details of a lavish wedding ceremony of his daughter. CBI questioned about a dozen people and received replies on expenses made and facilities provided from at least four hotels during the 2016 wedding of its Special Director Asthana’s daughter in Vadodara. The report claims that “a perusal of these replies and CBI documents show that several venues were availed by the Asthana family on complimentary basis. “Referring to the CBI documents, it stated that the catering for the event was provided by Hotel Express Towers which did not charge the expenditure. In a signed document provided to CBI, the Hotel Express Towers said, “We were only supplying food at the event and no other services were provided and the function was done on complimentary basis so no bill was raised for the Sangeet Sandhya held on 24/11/2016.
The wedding ceremony, according to CBI documents, was organized on November 25 at the Sunken Garden, The Lakshmi Vilas Palace, the home of the erstwhile royalty of the Gaekwads. In its reply to the CBI, The Laxmi Vilas Palace has said that the venue was provided to the Asthana family on complimentary basis. It further alleged that catering for the wedding was handled by Vadodara’s oldest five star hotel The Grand Mercure Surya Palace and the documents do not show the payment. This has been under circulation that around 1,200 guest of eminence attended the wedding. The CBI team collected all these receipts and invoices as evidence, it added. Apart from this, the Asthana family also booked 35 rooms for two days in the Sun City Club and Resort in Vadodara. In its reply to CBI, the club said it provided the rooms on “complimentary basis”. The owner of the property is reportedly confessed to CBI that as “our resort was new at that time, even before we had launched the resort and we found it as an honor to host such prestigious guests to make them stay at our property and thus we offered it all on complimentary basis.
The CBI has also claimed in its report that a BMW car and a Honda CRV were used by the Asthana family during the function. It says the vehicle was provided by Sandeep Barot, transport incharge of Chetan Sandesara, Pertinently, a PIL filed by petitioner Prashant Bhushan in the Supreme Court raising doubts over Asthana’s integrity, which was later dismissed by SC last year. Meanwhile, the fight between the CBI's top two men is becoming curiouser and curiouser.
ROLE OF RAW OFFICER
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has also named special director Rakesh Asthana as an accused in a bribery case for accepting a bribe of Rs 2 crore to settle meat exporter Moin Qureshi’s case. Apart from Asthana, the CBI has also named RAW number two Samant Kumar Goel in the FIR. Goel has been accused of facilitating the deal between Asthana and Qureshi. The FIR was filed on October 15 and one Manoj, who allegedly transferred the bribe, was arrested the following day. Qureshi was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate in August last year. According to the agency, he was arrested under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act and he was not cooperating in the probe. The meat exporter has been accused of laundering money for a host of public servants.


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