The Centre on Tuesday sent Central Bureau of Investigation Director Alok Verma and Special Director Rakesh Asthana on leave, NDTV reported. The government has appointed M Nageshwar Rao the interim director, according to The Indian Express. Rao is currently a joint director at the agency.
Multiple reports said the CBI headquarters had been sealed, and nobody was being allowed in as a team of officers was inside, PTI quoted unidentified officials as saying. However, the building has now been opened. According to ANI, there will be no movement of officials or files at either Verma’s or Asthana’s office till 2 pm.
The government’s action comes amid a tussle between Verma and Asthana. Last week, the CBI named Asthana in a First Information Report in a bribery case. He was accused of accepting a Rs 2-crore bribe to scuttle an investigation into businessman Moin Qureshi, allegedly involved in multiple corruption cases.
In August, Asthana had himself accused Verma of illegal activity, and reportedly approached the Central Vigilance Commission, accusing him of interference in investigations. The CBI called Asthana’s complaint malicious and frivolous, and said it was an attempt to intimidate officers investigating Asthana’s role in some cases.
Asthana also said Verma was trying to falsely implicate him. He reportedly alleged that Hyderabad-based businessman Sana Sathish Babu, who is an accused in the case, had claimed that it was Verma who was paid the Rs 2-crore bribe.
On Tuesday, Asthana moved the Delhi High Court to get the case against him quashed. The court said no coercive action can be taken against him till October 29.
The fight between Verma and Asthana had started in 2017, when Verma objected to Asthana’s appointment to the agency as he was under investigation in the Sterling Biotech case.