HC slams CBI, Centre for not filing reply on Asthana plea

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New Delhi, Oct 29 The Delhi High Court on Monday slammed the Centre and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for failing to file a reply on its Special Director Rakesh Asthana's plea seeking quashing of an FIR against him.Justice Najmi Waziri extended the interim protection from arrest granted to Asthana till November 1 and said that the October 23 order to maintain status quo in the case will continue till the next date set for hearing.The court's direction came on Asthana's plea seeking extension of the status quo order and to issue direction to the CBI not to take coercive steps against him.The court pulled up the CBI for not filing responses on Asthana and suspended Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Devender Kumar's pleas seeking quashing of FIRs.Seeking more time to file its response, the CBI told the court that the team probing the case against Asthana had been changed.The court said: "Has the institution come to a standstill? You (CBI) will file reply on or before October 31 otherwise your officers will be called."The court reminded the probe agency that it had given them time to file reply on the plea in the last hearing, too.The CBI prosecutor replied that the agency has sent the case files to the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC).The court also rapped the Central government for its failure to file responses and not clearing its stand on the CBI officials' pleas.The Centre and the CBI counsels sought more time to file reply, saying the matter is pending before the Supreme Court.The court asked: "Has Supreme Court ordered not to conduct further investigation in the case?"The court observed that the apex court has not issued any directions to stay proceedings in the present case.The high court was hearing pleas from Asthana and Kumar, who said that the cases were registered against them in an illegal manner with a mala fide intention.Asthana's counsel requested the court to grant relief to his clients.The high court has also asked the CBI to file response on a plea by arrested private person Manoj Prasad, who has challenged the FIR against him as well.The CBI told the court that it has added five new sections of the Indian Penal Code, comprising extortion and forgery of documents, in the bribery FIR it has registered against Asthana, Kumar and two private persons -- Manoj Prasad and his brother Somesh Prasad -- on October 15.The agency said it has also informed the trial court regarding the move.Kumar, who was arrested last week for allegedly forging documents in the bribery charge case against Asthana, has moved a bail plea in the trial court, which will hear the petition plea on Tuesday.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.According to the CBI, Kumar fabricated the statement of Sana Sathish Babu, 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 came 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 between December 2017 and October 2018.Asthana, a 1984-batch Indian Police Service officer of the Gujarat cadre, is accused of accepting a bribe of Rs 2 crore 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.In a dramatic post-midnight action, the government on October 24 divested CBI chief Alok Verma of his charge and made Joint Director M. Nageshwar Rao the interim Director. Asthana was also divested of all his supervisory responsibilities.The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) took the decision after Verma and Asthana accused each other of taking bribes.

IANS