New Delhi: Struggling with the crisis that emanated from the feud between former CBI chief Alok Verma and his deputy Special Director Rakesh Asthana, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is ready to face another difficulty now.
The Delhi High Court on Tuesday sought the Centre’s response on a plea seeking setting up of an SIT to investigate the alleged illegal phone tapping of National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval by the probe agency.
The petition claimed that phones of several others were also tapped when the CBI was witnessing a feud between Verma and Asthana.
A bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V K Rao issued a notice to the Ministry of Home Affairs and the CBI, seeking their responses on the plea.
The petition by Sarthak Chaturvedi, an advocate, has alleged that the illegal act of “abuse of power” was committed by some public servants working in the agency “for their ulterior motive”.
It has claimed that a special unit of the CBI, which handles phone tapping and technical surveillance, was aware of communications between the NSA and Asthana during the latter’s feud with Verma.
The former CBI director was removed by a high-level panel headed by the prime minister on January 10.
Chaturvedi’s petition said the issue of tapping of phones was revealed in an application filed in the Supreme Court by CBI DIG Manish Sinha, who was investigating an FIR registered against Asthana.
It added that Sinha’s application, which disclosed several crucial facts of an ongoing investigation and “commission of cognisable offence of abuse of powers by public servants”, was published on a news website.
“Who gave permission to tap the phone of the National Security Advisor? How can these facts come to light in public domain? This is very dangerous for the country,” senior advocate Kirti Uppal, appearing for Chaturvedi, contended in court.
The petition has claimed that even the phones of special secretary, RAW and the law secretary were put under surveillance.
Apart from seeking setting up of a special investigation team (SIT), the petitioner also sought framing of comprehensive guidelines on tracing, tapping and surveillance of phone calls along with preparation of stocks and accountability of officials.
However, the plea for framing of guidelines was not pressed after the central government’s standing counsel Gaurang Kanth, appearing for the Ministry of Home Affairs, told the court that such norms have already been laid down by the Supreme Court.
The petition contended that the existing policy on phone tapping and surveillance was “not comprehensive and bestows uncontrolled and unaccountable powers in the hands of public servants”.