Exposing the cracks in India’s top investigating agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has written to the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) saying that its second most senior officer, Special Director Rakesh Asthana, does not have the mandate to represent its chief, Director Alok Verma.
That’s not all, it has informed the CVC that several officers being considered for induction in the agency “were under examination by the CBI as suspects/ accused in criminal cases under investigation with the Bureau”.
Pointing out that Asthana is himself “under (the) scanner” in several cases, the agency has conveyed that in order to “maintain organizational integrity”, he “cannot be consulted for inducting officers into CBI” in the absence of the Director.
The agency has also asked for “sufficient time in advance” to conduct “due diligence checks” on officers being proposed for induction.
The issues raised by CBI assume significance at a time when it is probing several politicians in the run-up to the general elections next year. In a separate case this month, the Supreme Court diluted the protection given to Enforcement Directorate joint director Rajeshwar Singh from a probe on charges of corruption — Singh is probing the controversial Aircel Maxis case.
The CBI’s concerns were conveyed in two letters sent by its policy division in response to a telephone call from the CVC on July 10, informing it about a meeting of the CBI selection committee on July 12.
The letters, issued by the division with the “approval of the Director, CBI”, informed the CVC that it had not received any formal agenda for the meeting.
It reminded the CVC about its past concern of holding selection committee meetings at such short notice without an agenda. The CBI said that it “had already expressed its concern on May 18th, 2018 vide letter.. wherein it was requested that CBI be given sufficient time in advance to conduct due diligence checks on the officers/ candidates being proposed for induction”.
The agency noted that “in the previous CBI Selection Committee meeting, names of officers who were being considered for induction in CBI were under examination by the CBI as suspects/ accused in criminal cases under investigation with the Bureau”. It said that apart from a letter sent on July 6, “this was also formally conveyed in the previous CBI Selection Committee meetings as well as during the monthly meetings held between the CVC and the CBI”.
The role of the CVC-chaired selection committee had come under the spotlight after Asthana became the CBI Special Director last year. The committee, at the time, chose to ignore a note from CBI director Verma pertaining to corruption allegations and objecting to Asthana’s name.