In a setback to Special CBI Director Rakesh Asthana, the Delhi High Court on Friday refused to quash the FIR against him in a case involving bribery allegations filed by the agency.
Justice Najmi Waziri directed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to conclude investigation against Asthana, who had a running battle with ousted Director Alok Verma, within 10 weeks.
The court said that law treats everyone equal and Asthana being a agency official cannot claim privilege or immunity.
The court also observed that no sanction to prosecute Asthana is required in the case and cancelled its interim order that has granted interim protection from arrest to Asthana and suspended Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Devender Kumar.
"...When act of public servant is criminal, such sanction is not necessary," the court said.
Asthana has told the court that as per Section 17A, which was newly inserted after the 2018 amendment to the Prevention of Corruption Act, prior sanction is necessary for investigation against a serving officer.
He has also told the court that no sanction has been issued by the competent authority, Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT).
The court, while rejecting the pleas of Asthana, Kumar and alleged middleman Manoj Prasad seeking quashing of FIRs against them, said that allegation against them are serious in nature.
Asthana has said the cases were registered against them in an illegal manner with a mala fide intention.
The court said that allegation of "mala fide" has not been made out against the probe agency.
Now-ousted CBI Director Alok Verma's counsel has justified the agency's action against Asthana, saying the registration of FIR was in compliance with all existing laws, regulations and after following due procedure.
The court directed the CBI to investigate all allegations swiftly to restore its credibility.
However, it allowed Asthana to file appeal against the order in the higher court.
According to the CBI, Kumar fabricated the statement of Sathish Sana Babu, a witness in the businessman Moin Qureshi case, showing he recorded the statement on September 26, 2018, in Delhi.
However, the investigation revealed that Sana was not in Delhi that day. He was in Hyderabad and joined the investigation only on October 1, 2018.
The CBI has registered an FIR against Asthana, Kumar and two others, alleging that they took bribes at least five times between December 2017 and October 2018.
Asthana, a 1984-batch IPS officer of the Gujarat cadre, is accused of accepting a bribe of Rs 2 crore from a businessman who was being probed in the Qureshi case to "wreck" the investigation. The case was being examined by a special investigation team headed by Asthana.
As the battle between Asthana and Verma escalated, Verma was on October 23-24 night divested of his charge and Joint Director M. Nageshwar Rao was made the interim Director. Asthana was also divested of all his supervisory responsibilities.
The government took the decision after Verma and Asthana accused each other of taking bribes.
Verma was finally removed as CBI chief on Thursday by a high-level committee headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi by a 2-1 majority.
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