The Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to hear a PIL seeking court-monitored SIT probe into allegations of corruption against various Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) officials, including Rakesh Asthana, who was divested of his responsibilities as the premier investigative agency’s special director.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi considered the submission of lawyer Prashant Bhushan, appearing for NGO ‘Common Cause’ that there were wider issues of corruption affecting the probe agency and the PIL needed to be heard urgently.
The bench, which also comprised Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph, asked Bhushan to provide details and said it would consider granting urgent hearing on the petition.
The NGO has sought relief including court-monitored Special Investigation Team (SIT) probe into allegations of corruption against CBI officials including Asthana, who along with CBI Director Alok Kumar Verma had been divested of powers and sent on leave.
The apex court on Wednesday had agreed to hear on October 26 a separate plea filed by the CBI chief challenging the Centre’s decision to divest him of powers and send him on leave.
In an unprecedented shake-up in CBI’s 55-year-history, Verma and Asthana were stripped of their powers and sent on leave in dramatic overnight action by the government after their worsening feud sparked a serious crisis in the country’s premier probe agency.
As the government went into damage control mode, Joint Director M Nageswar Rao, a 1986-batch Odisha cadre IPS officer, was appointed to look after the “duties and functions” of the director with “immediate effect” as an “interim measure”.
Immediately after taking charge around midnight, Rao ordered transfers of a dozen officers with one of them being sent to Port Blair and also constituted a fresh team to probe bribery and extortion charges against Asthana. Most of the officers shifted were part of the probe teams against Asthana, a Gujarat cadre IPS officer.