CBI v/s CBI: Court accepts clean chit to Rakesh Asthana
A Special CBI Court on Saturday accepted the Central Bureau of Investigation's charge-sheet giving a clean chit to former Special Director Rakesh Asthana in an alleged bribery case. The court said that there is no sufficient evidence against Asthana and DSP Devender Kumar, who was also an accused in the Manoj Prasad bribery case. Here are more details.
No sufficient ground to proceed against Asthana, Kumar: Court
Special CBI Judge Sanjeev Aggarwal said in the order, "There is no sufficient ground to proceed against Rakesh Asthana and DSP Devender Kumar." However, the judge added, "We will see if anything comes in a future investigation being conducted by the CBI." Incidentally, the court also found "sufficient grounds" to move against Manoj Prasad, previously deemed the "middleman" in the bribery affair.
Court summons Manoj, 2 others, on April 13
The court found sufficient grounds to proceed against accused Manoj, his brother Someshwar Prasad and father-in-law Sunil Mittal. The court summoned Someshwar and Mittal on April 13, citing offenses under IPC Sections 420, 385 read with 120B, and Prevention of Corruption Act Sections 7, 8.
Here's a brief summary of the bribery case
The case pertains to the allegation of Hyderabad-based businessman Satish Babu Sana who alleged that Asthana received Rs. 2 crore as bribe from him through the "middleman" Manoj Prasad. The bribe was in exchange for Sana's exoneration in the Moin Qureshi money laundering case. Interestingly, Sana said he was only shown Asthana's WhatsApp display picture as proof that the bribe was for the latter.
CBI registered FIR against Asthana, Kumar, others
The CBI then registered an FIR against Asthana, then-Special Director at the Bureau, DSP Devendra Kumar and others in the bribery case. The CBI later arrested Kumar and Manoj. To note, Sana has since claimed that he never named Asthana. Sana reportedly said that then-CBI Director Alok Verma "wanted to settle the score with Rakesh Asthana" and hence named him in the FIR.
However, Asthana alleged Verma took bribe from Sana
Notably, on August 24, 2018—before the bribery allegations against Asthana emerged—he had written to the Cabinet Secretary alleging that Verma interfered with the investigation in the Moin Qureshi case to try and save the accused Sana. In a letter to the Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC)—dated October 19, 2018—Asthana alleged that Verma accepted a bribe from Sana to settle the Moin Qureshi case.
Asthana, Verma were sent on leave; CBI probed case
The Central government sent both Verma and Asthana on leave while an investigating team probed the bribery allegations. Asthana and Kumar moved the Delhi High Court seeking to quash the FIR. In January 2019, the court refused to do so, however, directed the CBI to complete the probe in ten weeks. The CBI sought multiple extensions and eventually filed a charge-sheet on February 11.
Manoj Prasad named accused in CBI charge-sheet
In the charge-sheet, Asthana and Kumar were reportedly named in column 12 since "there was not enough evidence to make them an accused." The charge-sheet only named "middleman" Manoj Prasad as the accused in the bribery case. Manoj had earlier been arrested in the case on October 17, 2018, however, he received bail on December 18 the same year.