The Delhi High Court has instructed that CBI special director Rakesh Asthana cannot be arrested until the next hearing Monday.
New Delhi: The controversial special director of the Central Bureau of Investigation Rakesh Asthana got temporary relief Tuesday with the Delhi High Court ordering status quo in the case of corruption allegations against him.
Within hours, the CBI issued a statement saying there was no change in his role in the agency, scotching speculation that there was a move to place him under suspension. However, the CBI also amended the FIR against him and added sections related to extortion, forgery, dishonestly breaking open receptacle containing property and criminal conspiracy against him.
Earlier in the day, Asthana and DSP Devender Kumar, who have been accused in a case of corruption, moved the Delhi High Court.
Asthana alleged that the CBI FIR registered against him was ‘unconstitutional’ and sought relief from arrest, while Kumar, who was arrested Monday, said he was innocent and was being made a scapegoat.
The court ordered status quo to be maintained till the next hearing on Monday, 29 October, meaning Asthana won’t be arrested until then.
According to the CBI, Kumar forged the complaint recorded by Hyderabad-based businessman Sathish Sana, which had accused Asthana of taking Rs 3 crore in bribes. Kumar allegedly changed it to suit Asthana’s corruption case against CBI director Alok Verma.
Kumar has been suspended under sections of extortion and forgery of the Indian Penal Code.
Asthana, in his petition before the Delhi High Court, pleaded to the court to quash the FIR registered against the statutory prohibition contained in Section 17A of the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Act, 2018.
The section states that no police officer shall conduct inquiry or investigation into any offence alleged to have been committed by a public servant without previous approval — in this case, from the government of India.
Asthana argued that Verma started an investigation against him without any approvals while he was holding the No.2 position in the CBI.
The law states that if the alleged offence is relatable to any recommendation made or decision taken by the public servant in question (in this case, Asthana), in the discharge of his official functions or duties (he was heading the Special Investigation Team into the Moin Qureshi corruption case), then any action against the officer needs prior approval.
It also states that no approval is necessary for cases involving arrest of a person caught red-handed. However, in this case, Asthana said he was not caught-red handed taking any bribe, and the FIR was registered on the basis of mere allegation made by one businessman (Sathish Sana), who himself is a suspect in the case being investigated by Asthana. Thus, it was illegal.
Asthana pleaded: “The petitioner herein is preferring the instant Criminal Writ Petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of India for quashing of FIR no 13A/2018 registered with AC III CBI, being illegal registered in contravention of section 17 A id PC Act l, frivolous and actuated with mala fide.”
The petition also said that a ‘writ of mandamus’ be issued directing the respondents (CBI director Verma, and joint director A.K. Sharma) to not take any further steps in pursuance of the FIR against him. Asthana’s lawyer told the court that his client fears arrest, and also requested the court to tell the CBI not to take any coercive action. The court ordered the status to be maintained till the next hearing Monday.
Devender Kumar’s petition
In his petition, DSP Kumar said he was being made “a scapegoat”, and the case filed against him was “false, frivolous and an afterthought”.
Kumar requested issuance of an order calling for the records of the case and other related documents and quashing of the FIR against him.
He insisted that he was an “upright officer” with an “excellent service record”. He stated that he was being implicated just because he unearthed the truth in the Moin Qureshi case that involves public servants.