PTI Photo
PTI Photo

New Delhi: Days after Alok Verma was removed as CBI chief, his controversial deputy, Rakesh Asthana, has been abruptly moved out of the agency. He has been shunted to the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security, which essentially looks after airport and flight security. Several officers owing allegiance to Verma too have been moved out, in what is seen as a purge just before the new chief takes over. These officers were identified by one news portal as AK Sharma, MK Sinha and Jayant Naiknaware.

A special panel headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi will now meet on January 24 to pick Verma’s successor.  There was a time when Asthana was tipped to take over from Verma. But the bitter public spat between the two officers boomeranged, resulting in the ignominious exit of Verma, who was transferred to the post of director general of fire service. He, however, refused the posting and resigned. Now, the appointments committee of the cabinet has transferred Rakesh Asthana.

What might have marred his case was that the Delhi High Court recently refused to quash a corruption FIR against him. Political observers see in the latest move a desire to change the public perception about the CBI. Asthana, a Gujarat cadre IPS officer, was perceived to be a blue-eyed boy of the Modi dispensation. The government has faced a lot of criticism for its hamhanded handling of the spat between the two officers leading to the midnight ouster of Verma and the legal developments that ensued, climaxing in Justice A K Sikri refusing a London posting.

The Congress has questioned the tearing hurry behind the recent shunting of Verma, who was packed off as DG Fire Services, barely a day after he was reinstated by the Apex Court.. To add to the government’s woes, NGO Common Cause has filed a PIL seeking a direction to quash the January 10 order of the Centre appointing Nageswar Rao as the interim/acting Director of the CBI.

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