New Delhi: CBI DIG MK Sinha, who was supervising a probe against CBI Special Director Rakesh Asthana, has recused himself from taking charge of the investigation, officials said Thursday.
In a fresh reshuffle ordered by CBI Director Alok Verma who resumed duty Wednesday after 77 days-long forced leave, Sinha was given charge of banking, securities and frauds cell, and AC-III unit, which is probing a corruption case against against Asthana, the officials in the know told PTI, requesting anonymity. Sinha has taken charge of BSFC unit but has offered to recuse himself from the AC-III unit which is probing the Asthana matter because of recent developments amidst an ongoing feud between Verma and Asthana, they said.
Sinha is understood to have conveyed to the CBI director that in the interest of the investigation he may not be handed over the probe, they said. His proposal to recuse himself is being positively considered at the top level, they said. The DIG, who had deciphered money trail of bribery allegedly involving Asthana, was transferred to Nagpur a day after M Nageshwar Rao took charge on October 23, 2018 after the government sent Verma and Asthana on forced leave through a controversial order. The order was overturned by the Supreme Court Tuesday.
A CBI director enjoys a minimum fixed tenure of two years given by the top court through the Vineet Narayan judgement. Verma who resumed duties on the orders of the Supreme Court, which set aside the order sending him on forced leave, withdrew most of the transfer orders, including that of Sinha, taken by Rao in his absence. After being transferred, Sinha had approached the apex court through an explosive affidavit with damning claims about how officials at the very top of the government were allegedly interfering in the CBI probe against Asthana.
In his 34-page petition, Sinha, a 2000 batch IPS officer from Andhra Pradesh cadre, had alleged that the CBI director briefed NSA Ajit Doval on October 17 about registration of a case against Asthana. “Subsequently on the same night, it was informed that the NSA has informed Rakesh Asthana about registration of the FIR. It was informed that Rakesh Asthana reportedly made a request to the NSA that he should not be arrested,” the petition said.
Sinha, while supporting the affidavit of Deputy Superintendent of Police officer A K Bassi, who was also transferred to Andaman and Nicobar Islands, claimed Bassi favoured immediate search of public servants involved in the bribery case (relating to Asthana) but the “director CBI did not give immediate permission and reverted that the NSA has not permitted the same”. The CBI had booked Asthana on allegations of receiving bribe from an accused, Manoj Prasad, probed by him in a case linked to meat exporter Moin Qureshi.
Sinha said, during interrogation of Manoj Prasad, who was arrested in the bribery case allegedly involving Asthana, the names of Doval and Samant Kumar Goel, the special director of India’s external intelligence agency (R&AW) cropped up. “As per Manoj Prasad, Dineshwar Prasad, his father, retired as joint secretary, and has close acquaintance with Doval. This was one of the first things Manoj claimed on being brought to CBI HQ and expressed complete surprise and anger as to how CBI could pick him up, despite his close links with Doval,” Sinha said, adding Manoj claimed.
Sinha said Manoj “taunted” the CBI officers and asked him to “stay in limits”. He said on October 20, searches were conducted at the residence and the office of Devender Kumar, DySP, CBI who was investigating the Moin Qureshi case. The reason for the searches was based on certain inputs provided by Special Unit, based on legal interception.
“While the search was on, a phone call was received from director CBI instructing to stop the search. At that time, the applicant (Sinha) was sitting in the BSF&C office and asked the director, to which the director replied that this instruction has come from NSA Shri Doval,” Sinha had alleged. Sinha, in his plea, also alleged that Hyderabad-based businessman Sathish Babu Sana, who is the complainant in the case against Asthana, told during interrogation that sometime in the first fortnight of June 2018, a few crores of rupees was paid to Union minister Haribhai Parthibhai Chaudhary, at present the minister of state for coal.
“As per Sana, Harbhai had intervened with the senior officers of the CBI through the office of minister of personnel to whom apparently, the director CBI reports to. The money was paid through one Vipul of Ahmedabad. These facts were disclosed to me by Sana on October 20 in the forenoon,” Sinha had said in his petition.