The Central Vigilance Commission’s (CVC) Minutes on the appointment of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)’s controversial officer Rakesh Asthana is a clear example of how procedures are being made a mockery of. The Minutes produced by the Government in the Supreme Court clearly show that CBI Director Alok Verma objected the promotion of Asthana as a Special Director citing his involvement in the probe related to the bribe payouts by accused Sterling Biotech.
The CVC Selection Committee cleverly used CBI’s recommendation on July 6 for empanelment of Rakesh Asthana as Special Director. But it ignored the fact that in the last week of August, the CBI registered a First Information Report (FIR) against three Income Tax Commissioners for accepting bribes from Sterling Biotech Group companies, based on the payout diary seized.
It is shocking as to how the CBI Director’s objection was overruled by the CVC’s Selection panel headed by CVC KV Chowdary. That ‘the name Rakesh Asthana mentioned in the bribe dairy has not established that this is the same Rakesh Asthana’ was the reason cited by the pliant selection committee headed by KV Chowdary to ignore the CBI Director’s observations. How can a CBI Director’s opinion be ignored by the Selection Committee, without any probe or fact checking? This is baffling.
“The CBI Director has furnished a Secret/ Confidential letter ID No: 30/2017/VC(CVC) 152/1552 dated 21/10/2017 in the meeting enclosing an unsigned note on Sterling Biotech Ltd & Related Entities. It is mentioned that DCBI (Director CBI) that the entries in the note refer inter alia to one Shri Rakesh Asthana. The Committee considered the note and the matter was also discussed with the Director CBI. Keeping in view that there is no finding in these papers that the person mentioned therein is the same person under consideration for appointment and there is nothing about the veracity of the contents of the document and the further fact that the CBI itself moved the present proposal on 6/7/2017 wherein it has been categorically mentioned that Shri Rakesh Asthana IPS (GJ: 1984) is suitable to hold the post of Special Director of CBI and no further verified material has been brought on record, the Committee decided to recommend him for appointment as Special Director, CBI. The Committee has also kept in view the fact that the Vigilance Commission does not take cognizance of complaints received just on the verge of appointments or promotions unless they are proven misconducts. The Committee has also noted the decisions of the Courts in respect of such documents,” said the Minutes rejecting CBI Director’s objections. The Minutes is published at the end of this post.
The CVC Selection Committee cleverly used CBI’s recommendation on July 6 for empanelment of Rakesh Asthana as Special Director. But it ignored the fact that in the last week of August, the CBI registered a First Information Report (FIR) against three Income Tax Commissioners for accepting bribes from Sterling Biotech Group companies, based on the payout diary seized. The FIR also named Congress leader Ahmed Patel’s son-in-law Irfan for bribing one of the accused Income Tax Commissioner. In October, the CBI registered another FIR against the company for cheating banks to the tune of more than Rs.5000 crores.
In the petition, noted lawyer Prashant Bhushan attached portions of the diary showing payouts amounting to Rs.3.8 crores to Rakesh Asthana in 2011. Those days Asthana was the Police Commissioner of Surat. Prashant Bhushan also produced documents to show that Asthana’s son Ankush Asthana was working as Assistant Manager with the controversial company Sterling Biotech during 2010-2012. In November 2016, Asthana’s daughter’s pre-wedding party was organised in the company’s farmhouse, said Bhushan, citing the newspaper reports of the plush party appeared in Gujarat newspapers.
It is interesting to note that the Congress party has not yet uttered a word on the one-month long controversy in CBI in connection with Asthana’s appointment.
Attorney General KK Venugopal on Friday (November 24) vehemently argued for the Government claiming that allegations against Asthana were wrong. The Supreme Court Bench comprising RK Agrawal and AM Sapre reserved the orders for November 28 after heated arguments. It is surprising that CBI Director’s opinion on the matter was not sought by the Court. The Judges preferred to straightway reserve for orders in this high profile case.
It is time for the Prime Minister to take a call on these murky activities happening in the CBI. In the minds of many, why is such a controversial officer allowed to continue in the CBI?
The Minutes of CVC Meeting is published below: