Update: Both Alok Verma and Rakesh Verma have been sent on leave by the government. Joint director M Nageshwara Rao has been appointed as its interim director.
Amid a very public spat between the top two officials of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Prime Minister Narendra Modi summoned Director Alok Verma and Special Director Rakesh Asthana on Monday.
On Tuesday, Asthana approached the Delhi High Court to quash an FIR registered against him by the CBI.
It all started with that FIR, filed by the CBI against its No. 2 officer, an unprecedented move by the investigative agency.
Here's all you need to know about the spat:
— The CBI booked Asthana in a bribery case, naming him as the prime accused in an FIR filed on 15 October.
— CBI alleged that Asthana may have taken a bribe through middleman Manoj Prasad to scuttle an investigation against meat exporter Moin Qureshi, who has a money laundering case against him.
— A special secretary in RAW, Samant Kumar Goel, is alleged to have helped seal the deal between Asthana and Qureshi.
— Reports suggest that Prasad has admitted before a magisterial court that he paid bribes to Asthana.
— Asthana's alleged role in the Qureshi case also came under the spotlight when Hyderabad-based Sana Satish Babu, a businessman who was also being questioned in the case, gave a statement to a Delhi magistrate.
— Hindustan Times reported that Babu alleged that middleman Manoj Prasad and his brother Somesh Prasad demanded Rs 5 crore to get Asthana to intervene in the Qureshi case. Babu, according to The Indian Express, is said to have paid the bribe to get relief from questioning in the case by Asthana.
— Asthana was leading an SIT probe against Qureshi and former CBI officer AP Singh (who was also removed for allegedly taking bribes from Qureshi).
— The Wirereported that Singh's involvement with Qureshi was discovered during Income Tax Department raids in the meat exporter's office in 2014. BlackBerry messages showed that Qureshi was in direct contact with Singh.
— The report says the case was handed over to Asthana in 2017 after Singh was removed.
Asthana's allegations against Alok Verma
— Before the FIR was filed against him, Asthana had accused his boss, CBI Director Verma, of falsely accusing him to protect Babu.
— In letters to the Cabinet Secretary and Central Vigilance Commission, Asthana had alleged that Verma and joint director Arun Kumar Sharma were trying to implicate him the case.
—Hindustan Times reports that Asthana alleged that an officer of "doubtful integrity" was visiting places in Gujarat to get information against him.
— The newspaper, in another report, quoted an anonymous CBI official as saying, "Sana Satish Babu is a suspect in the case registered against Moin Qureshi and AP Singh and the probe in the case is being supervised by special director Rakesh Asthana. Asthana, in his complaint to the Central Vigilance Commission, has accused CBI director Alok Verma of trying to help Sana Satish Babu. Asthana had filed the complaint before registration of the FIR in this regard."
— PTI reported that Asthana has also alleged that Verma delayed his team's request to arrest Babu in the case. Asthana claims that he had moved a file for Babu's arrest on 20 September 2018, which was held by CBI Director Verma and later referred to the Director of Prosecution, who demanded the evidence file.
— The PTI report said Asthana had claimed that it was his team which opened a Look Out Circular (LOC) against Babu, who was stopped at immigration and prevented from fleeing the country.
— A CBI spokesperson has, however, said that the allegations that Verma was not aware of the LOC issued against Babu were incorrect.
Who is Rakesh Asthana?
— Asthana is a 1984-batch Gujarat cadre IPS officer, who is the No. 2 official in the CBI, after Alok Verma.
— He was appointed to the CBI by the Modi government and also investigated the burning of the Sabarmati Express at Godhra in 2002.
— Asthana was heading the SIT that was looking into charges that the CBI's own officers were involved with Moin Qureshi.
— A source told The Printthat Asthana was one of the officers handpicked by the Modi government so it could wield control over the investigative agency.