Why Forced Leave For Rakesh Asthana, Asks Lawyer Mukul Rohatgi In CBI Row

New Delhi: 

The CBI’s number two officer Rakesh Asthana has questioned in the Supreme Court the government’s move to send him on compulsory leave along with his boss Alok Verma – the man he has accused of corruption. Mr Asthana’s petition, filed just moments before the top court’s hearing on CBI director Alok Verma’s petition, was not taken up by the top court.

Mr Asthana’s lawyer Mukul Rohatgi, a former attorney general, explained details of his petition to NDTV.

“(Asthana) says he has made a complaint with serious material against the director (Alok Verma) way back in August. That is being considered by the Chief Vigilance Commission. Nothing has happened so far. Why isn’t the probe being completed? Now with the court’s order, the probe will be completed in two weeks,” Mr Rohatgi said.

“If he (Asthana) has made the complaint, the director is the one who should have been divested of powers. Why should the same order apply to him,” he questioned.

In court today, Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi said: “Why are you so late? We can’t hear a case which is not listed before us.”

Mr Asthana had written to the Chief Vigilance Commission, the top anti-corruption watchdog, that CBI director Alok Verma had taken bribe from a businessman being investigated by the agency.

This was around the time the CBI director launched an investigation against Mr Asthana, a Special Director, accusing him of taking bribe from the same businessman.

The severe infighting between the top two of the country’s main investigating agency escalated when the CBI filed a First Information Report against Mr Asthana.

Mr Rohatgi said there is “no legal case pending” against his client.

“On record there is no pending inquiry, no case is pending against Asthana. Except the FIR which has been filed by the director (Verma) a few days ago and which has been challenged in the Supreme Court,” said the high-profile lawyer.

Responding to the charge that Mr Asthana, a Gujarat cadre officer described often by the Congress and other opposition parties as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s blue-eyed boy, had been favoured by the government, Mr Rohatgi said the government had acted completely on the recommendation of the Chief Vigilance Commissioner KV Chowdary.

“Nobody has raised a finger on the CVC. The CVC is an independent body and the commissioner a man of high integrity. His order records what has been happening in the last few months. He said I am pained to take such a drastic unprecedented step as the director has been uncooperative.”

Mr Rohatgi also argued: “If the government had to support Asthana, why was he sent on leave? That’s why he has gone to court against the government.”

The lawyer agreed that the credibility of the institution had suffered. “The earlier we put the mess away and clean it up, the better it is. That’s the first priority.”

Commenting on the observation that most players in the case are represented by top lawyers, Mr Rohatgi was dismissive. “People are making too much of it. It’s not an earthshattering case, or one about changes in the constitution.”

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