IPS Mohit Gupta to head probe against Rakesh Asthana

Reinstated CBI chief Alok Verma Thursday appointed SP-ranked IPS officer Mohit Gupta to probe the agency's Special Director Rakesh Asthana but did not make any changes in supervisory officers, soon after Deputy Inspector General MK Sinha requested to recuse himself from taking charge of the case, officials said.

Verma, who joined back after having been reinstated by the Supreme Court on Wednesday, had issued orders cancelling all the transfers effected by interim chief M Nageswar Rao.

A 1979-batch AGMUT cadre IPS officer, Verma issued fresh orders on Thursday according to which V Murugesan will continue to hold the post of Joint Director of Anti Corruption Unit-III, which is probing the case against Asthana.

After Sinha sought to recuse himself, the CBI chief asked Deputy Inspector General Tarun Gauba to continue supervising the investigations of the unit probing Asthana, who was sent on leave by the government along with Verma on October 23 last year. Both Gauba and Murugesan were appointed by M Nageshwar Rao to supervise the case when he was appointed as interim director by the government.

Gupta, a 2006-batch Uttar Pradesh-cadre IPS officer who is heading the Ghaziabad unit of the agency, has been appointed as the investigation officer of the case, officials privy to the development told PTI on condition of anonymity. He will be third investigation officer of the case against Asthana replacing Satish Dagar who was sent to Economic Offences Wing after Wednesday's orders. Dagar was brought in by Rao to replace DSP AK Bassi and Additional SP SS Gurm when he was made interim chief.

In a fresh reshuffle ordered by Verma, who resumed duty on Wednesday after 77-day-long forced leave, DIG MK Sinha has now been given the charge of Anti-Corruption Unit-I along with banking, securities and frauds cell. Earlier Sinha was to join the AC-III but he sought to recuse himself to prevent any prejudice from creeping in the investigation in the wake of recent feud between Verma and Asthana, the officials said. DIG Sinha is understood to have conveyed to the CBI director that in the interest of the investigation he may not be handed over the probe, they said.

Joint Director AK Sharma, who was overall in-charge of the probe against Asthana before Verma was sent on leave in October, will supervise the work of Anti-Corruption Unit-I, which handles sensitive corruption cases related to defence deals among others.

Sinha, who had deciphered money trail of bribery allegedly involving Asthana, was transferred to Nagpur a day after Rao took charge on October 23, 2018 after the government sent Verma and Asthana on forced leave through a controversial order. The order was overturned by the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

A CBI director enjoys a minimum fixed tenure of two years given by the top court through the Vineet Narayan judgement.

Verma who resumed duties on the orders of the Supreme Court, which set aside the order sending him on forced leave, withdrew most of the transfer orders, including that of Sinha, taken by Rao in his absence.

After being transferred, Sinha had approached the apex court through an explosive affidavit with damning claims about how officials at the very top of the government were allegedly interfering in the CBI probe against Asthana.

In his 34-page petition, Sinha, a 2000-batch IPS officer from Andhra Pradesh cadre, had alleged that the CBI director briefed NSA Ajit Doval on October 17 about registration of a case against Asthana.

Sinha, while supporting the affidavit of Deputy Superintendent of Police officer AK Bassi, who was also transferred to Andaman and Nicobar Islands, claimed Bassi favoured immediate search of public servants involved in the bribery case (relating to Asthana) but the "director CBI did not give immediate permission and reverted that the NSA has not permitted the same".

The CBI had booked Asthana on allegations of receiving bribe from an accused, Manoj Prasad, probed by him in a case linked to meat exporter Moin Qureshi. Sinha had said, during interrogation of Manoj Prasad, who was arrested in the bribery case allegedly involving Asthana, the names of Doval and Samant Kumar Goel, the special director of India's external intelligence agency (R&AW) cropped up. 

            —With PTI inputs

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