A Central Bureau of Investigation deputy inspector general, who was part of the team investigating Special Director Rakesh Asthana’s role in a corruption case, filed a petition in the Supreme Court on Monday claiming that National Security Adviser Ajit Doval’s name had come up during the inquiry and that there were allegations of a Union minister having received a bribe. Manish Kumar Sinha’s petition claims that the investigation turned up evidence of Union Minister of State for Coal and Mines Haribhai Parthibhai Chaudhary allegedly accepting “a few crores” to intervene on behalf of a businessman being investigated by the agency.
Sinha is among several CBI officials who were transferred by the agency in “public interest” soon after the Central government sent CBI Director Alok Verma and Special Director Rakesh Asthana on leave on October 24. Action was taken against the agency’s two top officers after they accused each other of taking bribes. Sinha has challenged his transfer in the Supreme Court as have the other officials.
The Supreme Court rejected Sinha’s request for an urgent hearing of his petition on Monday and listed the matter for November 20, when the main case also comes up for hearing.
Sinha petitioned the Supreme Court against his transfer, which took place the night that CBI Director Alok Verma and Special Director Rakesh Asthana were both sent on leave, after which a number of officials were transferred by the agency in “public interest.” All of those moves are now under legal challenge in the Supreme Court, which is monitoring all developments.
Sinha claimed, in his petition that “there is a deliberate, concerted attempt to change the course of investigation of the said FIR, there is reasonable apprehension / likelihood of tampering with evidence, exonerate the existing accused persons against whom there already exists overwhelming evidence and on the contrary, implicate / punish, as a first step of which the applicant was transferred to Nagpur twelve hundred kilometres away in completely arbitrary manner in the name of so called public interest.”
The petition was not given an urgent hearing by the Supreme Court on Monday, but has been listed on November 20, when the main case also comes up. The main case pertains to accusations against Special Director Rakesh Asthana of accepting a Rs 2-crore bribe to scuttle an investigation against businessman Moin Qureshi, who is an accused in multiple corruption cases.
Sinha said that Satish Sana, a Hyderabad-based businessman under CBI investigation who subsequently accused Asthana of corruption, had also provided him information about Union minister Chaudhary allegedly accepting bribes to intervene in the case.
In his petition, Sinha alleged that a number of senior officials had attempted to interfere in the investigations against both Moin Qureshi and Asthana. He has claimed that National Security Adviser Ajit Doval had instructed Alok Verma to stop searches at the residence and premises of CBI Deputy Superintendent of Police Devender Kumar, who is accused of accepting bribes in the Qureshi case along with Asthana.
The petitioner also alleged that Union Law Secretary Suresh Chandra had contacted Sana through Rekha Rani, an Indian Administrative Services officer of Andhra Pradesh cadre, on November 8, and had told him that he was trying to convey Union Cabinet Secretary PK Sinha’s message that the government would offer Sana full protection. Chandra had also allegedly said that he and Sana should meet on November 14. On November 13, Chandra had told Rekha Rani that Sana should be brought to New Delhi on November 15 or 16.
Suresh Chandra has denied the allegations and told NDTV he does not know who Satish Sana or Rekha Rani are.
On the subject of his transfer, Sinha said in his petition that by moving him to Nagpur, the Centre had taken him out of the investigation into Asthana. The CBI officer wanted his plea heard along with Alok Verma’s, which challenges the government’s decision to send him on leave. The court will hear the CBI director’s petition on November 20.
When Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi asked Sinha why the plea was urgent, he replied that he had some “shocking documents” in his possession. “Nothing shocks us,” Gogoi responded while rejecting the plea for an urgent hearing.