Rakesh Asthana case: Appear on Feb 10 if probe not over, Delhi HC to CBI chief

Pritam Pal Singh
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Former CBI special director Rakesh Asthana. (File)

The CBI Wednesday faced the ire of the Delhi High Court after it failed to specify the time within which it will conclude the probe into the alleged bribery and extortion case against its former special director Rakesh Asthana. The court sought the presence of the agency’s director on February 10 if the probe was not completed by then.

Justice Vibhu Bakhru ordered the presence of CBI director Rishi Kumar Shukla if the agency fails to complete the probe and file its final report in the case.

The court’s oral observation and order was issued on the CBI’s application, which, without specifying the time period for a final report, stated that the analysis has been completed at four of the eight levels of supervision. “It is clarified; if the investigation in the case is completed (by February 10), there is no requirement of any officer (the CBI Director), to assist the court...,” it said.

The order calling Shukla was resisted by Additional Solicitor General Vikramjit Banerjee, the CBI’s counsel, saying, “At least one month be given to them (CBI), because it has completed the probe in the case and the same is being examined by the supervisory officers.”

To which, the court said it would pass an appropriate order if the CBI officer concerned was willing to give an undertaking on the definite time within which the probe would be completed.

Taking note of the previous orders in the matter, including the January 2019 direction to complete the investigation within 10 weeks, the court said, “it (the delay) is blatant violation of the order.

“You can’t take your sweet time to complete it. There are eight stages of the investigation; doesn’t mean you take eight years. If we give you (CBI) time to complete the investigation, it must have some meaning,” Justice Bakhru said.

It noted that the agency had approached the court with several applications for extensions of time, all of which were allowed. Saying that ASG Banerjee is unable to tell the court how much longer the investigation would take, the court added, “Whoever is the person, has to complete the investigation in time-bound manner. Despite the time frame being specified, investigation has not been completed. Moreover, it was clarified by the court in the last hearing that no further time will be provided to the agency. However, the investigation is still not completed by the agency.”

This was the third such application filed by the CBI since January 2019.

At Wednesday’s hearing, opposing the CBI demand, senior advocates Mukul Rohatgi, Dayan Krishnan, N Hariharan and advocate Amit Anand Tiwari, appearing for the accused, submitted that the agency must be given 10 days time to conclude the probe. Rohatgi, however, said in case the agency fails to file their final report in the case, a person not less than the CBI director should be present in the court.

The Indian Express had reported in October that Asthana is likely to be absolved of all charges of corruption in the FIR registered by former CBI director Alok Verma. The CBI’s investigating officer (IO) in the case has prepared a report exonerating Asthana and it has been submitted to superiors, according to sources.