New Delhi: CBI Director Alok Verma and his deputy and Special Director Rakesh Asthana on Friday appeared before a panel headed by Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) K.V. Chowdary. They blamed each other for corruption while defending themselves.

The inquiry committee comprised of Chowdary, retired Supreme Court judge A.K. Patnaik and Vigilance Commissioners Tejendra Mohan Bhasin and Sharad Kumar.

Verma, who appeared at the Central Vigilance Commission headquarters, told the panel that Asthana had made frivolous complaints against him because there was an FIR pending against him (Asthana) and he feared he would be arrested.

Refuting allegations of corruption against him, Verma said his actions were in the interest of the probe against Asthana. Verma had on Thursday too appeared before the inquiry committee but the meeting was postponed for Friday due to the non-availability of a Vigilance Commissioner.

Earlier this week, Verma responded in writing to a questionnaire sent by CVC but the panel was not satisfied with his reply and sought his physical appearance.

CBI vs CBI: How it All Started

In an unprecedented move, the CBI on October 15 registered an FIR against Special Director Rakesh Asthana for allegedly taking a bribe from an accused probed by him in lieu of ensuring relief and a clean chit in the case.

The case was registered on a statement of the alleged bribe giver, Sathish Sana, who was facing probe in a separate case of bribery involving meat exporter Moin Qureshi. Asthana in his complaint against the director two months ago had alleged that it was Sana who paid Verma Rs 2 crore to get relief.

The CBI also arrested Devender Kumar, a deputy SP in Asthana’s team. The agency told a Delhi court Tuesday that an “extortion racket” was being run in the CBI in the garb of high-profile cases. The spat between the two top officers is the first of its kind in the history of the agency.

It became public when Verma objected to the elevation of the then Additional Director Rakesh Asthana as Special Director before the Central Vigilance Commission.

The objections were noted, but the commission in a unanimous decision cleared Asthana as Special Director, making him the second-in-command in the agency. A PIL filed by NGO Common Cause against the decision was also rejected by the Supreme Court.

Asthana, who was in charge of the Special Investigation Team handling sensitive cases, including those related to Vijay Mallya, Agusta Westland and land acquisition in Haryana, filed an explosive complaint against Verma on August 24, alleging that he took a bribe of Rs 2 crore from an accused probed by him.

Asthana had also complained about 10 more cases of alleged corruption and irregularities against the director. He had alleged that Verma had tried to stop raids on Lalu Prasad Yadav.

The matter was referred by the government to the Central Vigilance Commission which then sought files of cases mentioned in Asthana’s complaint.

(With agency inputs)