NEW DELHI — The internecine feud in the CBI turned murkier Monday with a senior officer MK Sinha dragging the names of NSA Ajit Doval, Union minister Haribhai Parthibhai Chaudhary and CVC KV Chowdhury over alleged attempts to interfere in the probe against CBI Special Director Rakesh Asthana, who has been divested of his duties and sent on leave along with his boss.
KV Chowdhury did not respond to queries when his reaction was sought while Doval, the National Security Advisor, was not immediately available for comments. The Union minister termed the allegations as baseless and malicious.
Sinha, who was probing the FIR against Asthana, the CBI's number 2, and important cases like the PNB scam involving Nirav Modi, made a litany of sensational allegations in his petition before the Supreme Court that sought urgent hearing for quashing his transfer to Nagpur.
Advocate Sunil Fernandes, appearing for Sinha, informed a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi that his client has "got some shocking revelations" in his petition and sought urgent listing and hearing Tuesday along with the plea of CBI Director Alok Verma.
"Nothing shocks us," the bench, also comprising Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph, shot back, as it ruled out urgent hearing and asked Fernandes to be present in the court when it will hear Verma's plea challenging the government's decision to divest him of duties and sending him on leave.
Sinha claimed that as a result of his transfer to Nagpur he has been taken out of the probe team investigating the FIR against Asthana.
"The transfer is arbitrary, motivated and malafide, and was made solely with the purpose and intent to victimise the officer as the investigation revealed cogent evidence against certain powerful persons," he alleged.
In his 34-page petition, Sinha, a 2000 batch IPS officer from Andhra Pradesh cadre, alleged that the CBI director briefed 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 has also been 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 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 a middleman Manoj Prasad, who was arrested in the bribery case allegedly involving Asthana, the names of Doval and Samant Kumar Goel, 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 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.
The minister, in a statement, said he would quit politics if the allegations were proven to be true. "Certain absolutely false and baseless allegations have been made against me. I neither know, nor have I met Mr Sathish Babu Sana, who is alleged to have paid me a bribe," he said.
"...I condemn this malicious attempt to malign my reputation. I welcome any enquiry into this matter and the law should take its own course. If I am proven guilty, I am willing to leave politics," he said.
Sinha, presently the DIG (Head of Branch) in CBI's Anti-Corruption Branch at Nagpur, also claimed Sana said he met the CVC along with one Gorantla Ramesh somewhere in Delhi and they discussed Moin Qureshi's case.
Sinha also alleged that Union Law Secretary Suresh Chandra had contacted Sana while the proceedings were going on in the CVC against Alok Verma. Chandra rejected the allegation as fake.