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CBI’s Asthana gets interim protection from arrest

Both sides involved in the dispute prevented from taking any action until the next date of hearing

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Tuesday directed the Central Bureau of Investigation to maintain status quo in the ongoing probe involving agency’s special director Rakesh Asthana and granted him interim protection from arrest till Monday.

The ‘status quo’ is generally referred to the existing state of affairs or circumstances, and now, both sides involved in the dispute are prevented from taking any action until the next date of hearing.

Justice Najmi Waziri directed the CBI to file a response to the agency’s Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Devender Kumar’s plea seeking quashing of First Information Report (FIR). The court listed the matter for further hearing on October 29.

Asthana’s lawyer and Senior advocate Amarendra Sharan pleaded to grant interim stay to the proceedings against the special director as he fears arrest because Kumar has been arrested in the case. He insisted the court to issue direction to CBI not to take coercive steps against Asthana.

“Don’t disturb the equilibrium,” the court said.

However, it refused to grant stay on the probe and said that case is of serious nature.

The court directed Asthana to ensure safe custody of all electronic records.

Asthana and Kumar have requested the court to call documents related to the case.

Asthana’s counsel told the court that the case was registered in an illegal manner with mala fide intention.

The case is based on the complaint of businessman Sathish Sana, who is a suspect in another corruption case against meat exporter Moin Qureshi. Asthana wanted custodial interrogation of the Sathish Sana, Asthana’s counsel said.

Countering the allegations, CBI said that charges against Asthana are serious and the investigating agency is likely to add more offences in the FIR.

Asthana told the court as per Section 17A, which was newly inserted after the 2018 amendment to Prevention of Corruption Act, prior sanction was necessary for investigation against a serving officer.

He also told the court that no sanction has been issued by the competent authority, Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT).

The CBI sought time to file detailed reply on the Asthana and Kumar’s pleas which was allowed by the court. The court also asked Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) and CBI Director Alok Verma to file response on the plea.

Meanwhile, a local court allowed the CBI to quiz arrested agency’s official Kumar till October 30.

Kumar was arrested on Monday for fabricating documents in the bribery allegations case against Asthana. Meat exporter Moin Qureshi, who is facing multiple cases of money laundering and corruption, had paid a bribe to get a case against him settled, the agency said.

Early in the morning, Kumar approached the High Court and told the bench that in spite of an excellent record in probing cases, he has been made a scapegoat in the matter. He said he has been implicated in a false and frivolous case.

Kumar termed the FIR against him as a shocking state of affairs and called the complaint against him illegal and mala fide.

According to the CBI, Kumar fabricated the statement of Sathish Sana, a witness in the Qureshi case, showing he recorded the statement on September 26 in Delhi. However, investigation revealed that Sana was not in Delhi on that day. He was in Hyderabad and joined the investigation only on October 1.

Kumar’s arrest comes a day after the CBI registered an FIR against Asthana, Kumar and two others. The CBI has alleged that bribes were taken at least five times in December 2017 and October 2018.

Asthana, a 1984 batch Indian Police Service officer of the Gujarat cadre, is accused of accepting a bribe of Rs20 million (Dh999,059) from a businessman who was being investigated in the Qureshi case in order to “wreck” the investigation. The case was being examined by a special investigation team (SIT) headed by Asthana.

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