In a big setback to Central Bureau of Investigation Special Director Rakesh Asthana, the Delhi high court on Friday refused to quash the first information report lodged against him on bribery allegations and set a a 10-week deadline to complete the investigations.
Holding that permission for prior sanction to prosecute Asthana was not required considering the facts of the case, the court vacated its interim order that granted the CBI's No. 2 protection against criminal proceedings which in effect meant there is no bar on his arrest.
Asthana is likely to challenge the high court verdict before the Supreme Court.
Justice Najmi Waziri also refused to quash the FIR lodged against CBI deputy superintendent Devender Kumar and alleged middleman Manoj Prasad.
The judge further said that the allegation of 'mala fide' raised against the then CBI Director Alok Verma has not been made out.
The high court gave its verdict while dismissing the petitions filed by Asthana, Kumar and Prasad challenging the FIR lodged against them.
Asthana was booked on charges of criminal conspiracy, corruption and criminal misconduct under the relevant sections of Prevention of Corruption Act.
Verma and Asthana were at loggerheads for several months and had levelled charges of corruption against each other.
Both of them were divested of their charge and sent on leave on the night of October 23.
Verma, who was ousted as CBI Director by a three-member high powered committee headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a 2-1 decision Thursday, asked the government to treat him 'deemed superannuated' with immediate effect. His two-year tenure as CBI chief was to end on January 31.
He has refused to take up his new assignment as Director General, Fire Services, Civil Defence and Home Guards.
Hyderabad-based businessman Sathish Babu Sana, on whose complaint the FIR against Asthana and others was lodged, had alleged having paid bribe to get relief in a case.
Sana had also made allegations of corruption, extortion, high-handedness and serious malpractice against Asthana.
Justice Waziri had reserved the judgement on December 20, 2018 on various petitions after hearing submissions of the counsel for CBI, the Centre, Asthana, Kumar, Verma and Joint Director A K Sharma.
Kumar, arrested on October 22, was granted bail on October 31.
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 Sana who had alleged having paid bribe to get relief in the case.
Prasad was arrested on October 17, 2018 and he was granted bail on December 18 as the CBI could not file the charge sheet against in the case in the mandatory 60 days.
Verma had in an affidavit said that there were sufficient incriminating documents and evidence against all the accused -- Asthana, Kumar and Prasad -- with the CBI, and the FIR had been lodged after the Preliminary Enquiry(PE) disclosed cognisable offences.
He had claimed that Asthana's plea is misconceived, premature and not maintainable as investigation in the matter is at a nascent stage.
The Supreme Court on January 8 reinstated Verma but directed him not to take any major policy decision.
Verma had challenged before the apex court the Centre's decision to divest him of all powers and sending him on leave following his feud with Asthana.
The apex court had held that the proper procedure was not followed by the Centre in divesting Verma of his power and sending him on leave along with Asthana.
The top court had on Tuesday asked the high-powered committee which selects the CBI Director to examine the charges against Verma on the basis of the report of the Central Vigilance Commission(CVC) report within a week.