Speculation abounds that ED joint director Rajeshwar Singh’s suspected proximity to ousted CBI director Alok Verma has irked the government.
New Delhi: After divesting the top two CBI officers of their charge following bribery allegations against both, the Narendra Modi government is now expected to turn its lens to the second most powerful investigative agency — the Enforcement Directorate (ED).
The name of ED joint director Rajeshwar Singh, who faces allegations of amassing disproportionate assets, has repeatedly cropped up in the CBI saga, and speculation abounds that his suspected proximity to ousted CBI director Alok Verma has irked the government.
Sources said that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Central government was also very upset about Singh’s alleged role in la affaire CBI. Some in the government have reportedly accused Singh of playing a prominent part in building a narrative against CBI special director Rakesh Asthana, whose closeness to top functionaries in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) is no secret.
It was an FIR against Asthana, filed by Verma earlier this week, that first caused the tumult within the CBI to spill over to national headlines.
There are indications that Singh, an Uttar Pradesh Provisional Police Service officer who joined the ED in 2009 on deputation, may proceed on long study leave from next week. However, sources told ThePrint that the government was planning to push the investigation agencies to speed up the probe against Singh and initiate action against him.
“His going on leave is immaterial,” said a source. “If there is evidence, action will be taken against him.”
Sources in the government said that the probe into the allegations against Singh was “proceeding smoothly” and that “there is material against him”.
Singh, incidentally, is very close to BJP MP Subramanian Swamy, partly because he oversaw the investigations in the Aircel-Maxis case, allegedly involving former finance minister P. Chidambaram.
Swamy took to Twitter Wednesday to allege that Singh could be suspended “so that he cannot file the chargesheet against PC” (a reference to former union finance minister P. Chidamabaram).
The players in the CBI massacre are about to suspend ED’s Rajeshwar so that he cannot file the chargesheet against PC. If so I will have no reason to fight the corrupt since my govt is hell bent on protecting them. I shall then withdraw from all the corruption cases I have filed.
— Subramanian Swamy (@Swamy39) October 24, 2018
It is learnt that a Delhi-based lawyer, with expertise in income tax cases, is also on the radar in the probe against Singh.
Another key factor said to be pitted against Singh is that he had, a while ago, levelled serious allegations against revenue secretary Hasmukh Adhia, including that he had delayed his promotion.
In a letter to Adhia, Singh asked whether he had developed animosity against him by “siding with scamsters and their affiliates”. Singh said Adhia was aware how he was being consistently hounded for standing up against the “selected few”, and had paid the price for doing what the law required him to do.
Adhia, another one of Swamy’s regular targets, is considered close to the Prime Minister.
Meanwhile, it remains uncertain if the Modi government will grant an extension to ED chief Karnal Singh, whose two-year term ends on 26 October. Singh reportedly shares a close relationship with Karnal, under whom the ED is said to have turned into an extension of the government.
Notably, the ED has chosen not to investigate controversial CBI special director Asthana, who finds a mention in the alleged Sandesara diaries.
As reported earlier by ThePrint, the government’s plans to grant an extension to Karnal have run into rough weather, with a petition in the Supreme Court challenging the move.