The Delhi high court on Tuesday directed the Central Bureau of Investigation to maintain status quo on the criminal proceedings initiated against its special director Rakesh Asthana, who has challenged the FIR lodged against him on bribery allegations.
Although the CBI cannot arrest Asthana till October 29, the next date of hearing, the high court clarified that there is no stay on the probe considering the nature and gravity of the case.
Besides Asthana, the agency’s Deputy Superintendent of Police Devender Kumar, who was arrested by the CBI on Monday, has also filed a separate petition seeking quashing of the FIR.
Justice Najmi Waziri issued notices and sought responses of the probe agency and its Director Alok Kumar Verma as also Joint Director A K Sharma on both the petitions.
The notice has also been issued to the Department of Personnel and Training, which has jurisdiction the CBI and its permission is required for investigations against bureaucrats.
The order asking the agency to maintain the status quo, till October 29, has been issued on the plea of Asthana only.
The high court, which heard the matter for 20 minutes, asked both Asthana and Kumar to preserve the records which are in their custody, including mobile phones.
The court listed the matter for October 29 after CBI’s counsel K Raghavacharyulu sought time to bring on record various sections under which the FIR was lodged.
During the hearing, CBI said charges against Asthana are serious and the agency was investigating the matter and is likely to add more offences in the FIR.
Senior advocate Amrendra Sharan and advocate Amit Anand Tiwari, appearing for Asthana, said it is a case of malafide and illegal registration of FIR against the Special CBI Director which is based on the statement of an accused.
He said there was “utmost urgency” and great amount of “sorrow” in the matter.
To this, the judge said this was not the stage to examine the allegation of malafide.
Asthana’s counsel said DoPT’s sanction is required to proceed against the officers and no permission was sought from the department.
When the court asked whether there was any bar on registration of FIR, Sharan said any investigation done without permission is illegal and barred.
Senior advocate Dayan Krishnan, who appeared for Kumar, also sought quashing of the FIR against the officer.
CBI’s counsel said the FIR was registered under the provisions of Prevention of Corruption Act and the IPC, including criminal conspiracy, and they have added more sections against the accused relating to extortion and forgery.
When CBI counsel remarked that if there is pest in wood, the wood becomes useless, the judge interjected and asked the advocate not to make such statements in court.
The counsel said it was a bribery case and the probe was at a primitive stage.
“In a case of this nature, give us some time, we will put everything on record in a sealed cover,” he said, adding that the matter concerned an institution and “we all are concerned with the institution”.
The court turned down the plea of Asthana’s counsel seeking to stay further proceedings in the matter.
“Nothing will happen. Tomorrow is Maharshi Valmiki’s birthday, kuch nahi hoga (nothing will happen),” the judge said and asked the CBI not to “disturb the equilibrium today”.
Asthana has also sought direction to call records of the case and other documents and that no coercive action be taken against him by the CBI.
Asthana moved the petition on Tuesday, hours after Kumar approached the high court which agreed to give an urgent hearing.
Both the petitions were mentioned before Chief Justice Rajendra Menon, who allocated the matter for hearing before Justice Waziri.
The CBI had on Monday arrested its DSP, Kumar, in connection with bribery allegations involving the investigative agency’s second-in-command, Asthana.
Kumar, earlier the investigating officer in a case involving meat exporter Moin Qureshi, was arrested on the allegations of forgery in recording the statement of businessman Sathish Sana, who had alleged to have paid bribe to get relief in the case.
Asthana claimed that CBI chief Verma in collusion with the joint director and other officers registered the against him to achieve the ulterior design without verifying the complaint made by Sana or conducting any enquiry.
“In the background of the above facts, the present proceedings are not only a shocking portrayal of misuse of the authority which not only undermine the credibility of institution and morale of the force, but also illustrate that the Respondent No. 2 (Verma) is misusing his position to achieve all illegal goals,” he alleged in his petition.
“The complainant (Sana) is a person who is proposed to be arrested by the petitioner (Asthana) and his SIT, he is found to be involved in entering into a conspiracy for slowing down the investigation against him. This fact is already reported and being enquired by appropriate authority,” he said.
The plea further alleged: “Now, this person turns back and makes the SIT itself an accused. It is pertinent to note that the officers of SIT are being prosecuted and this accused person is enjoying the freedom, liberty and protection from the highest officer of the investigating agency.”