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Asthana’s plea to quash bribery case rejected: CBI to complete probe in 10 weeks

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New Delhi, Jan 11: The Delhi High Court has rejected the petition filed by CBI special director Rakesh Asthana to quash the FIR against him . The plea filed by Deputy SP also seeking to quash the FIR has also been rejected.

The CBI has been directed to conclude the investigation against both Asthana and Kumar within 10 weeks. The court granted Asthana a certificate for appeal to the Supreme Court under Article 134 A of the Constitution.

Rakesh Asthana

The court while refusing to grant interim protection to Asthana, however asked the CBI to maintain status quo for 2 weeks. This means no arrest can be carried out during this period.

The court said that there is no doubt that the registration of an FIR against a public servant would cause a great deal of concern and stress for a public servant. Charges under the FIR are a matter of investigation. It is important that the law presumes a person is innocent until proven guilty.

Justice Najmi Waziri of the Delhi High Court had reserved the judgement on December 20, 2018 on various petitions after hearing submissions of the counsel for CBI, the Centre, Asthana, Deputy Superintendent Devender Kumar, Alok Verma and Joint Director A.K. Sharma.

Hyderabad-based businessman Sathish Babu Sana, on whose complaint the FIR was lodged and who had alleged to have paid a bribe to get relief in a case, had also filed a similar plea seeking to be heard in the case. However, he did not press for his plea and had said that he would cooperate with the CBI whenever called for the investigation.

Kumar on Thursday moved the Delhi High Court seeking direction to the probe agency not to allow Verma and other re-transferred officers to deal with the bribery FIR lodged against him. The application, filed in the main petition, is likely to be heard on Friday.

Asthana and Kumar's counsel had argued that the FIR was antedated and it reached the magistrate 52 hours after registration, whereas, as per law, it should be placed before the magistrate within 24 hours.

They had contended that there was no allegation of demand and acceptance of illegal gratification against Asthana, and he cannot be made an accused for the alleged offence under the PC Act.
The CBI had said there was no merit in the petitions of the two officers and the agency was bound to probe the matter thoroughly.

Verma, who was made a respondent in the petitions, had earlier maintained that all mandatory procedures of law were followed while registering an FIR against Asthana on bribery allegations.

Sharma, who was one of the respondents, had argued that the FIR was not lodged exclusively under the Prevention of Corruption Act and the provisions of IPC, including, forgery, extortion and criminal conspiracy, which means sanction to prosecute the government official was not of much importance.

The Centre's counsel had said that ordinarily it was required to take prior sanction to prosecute a public servant, but as this matter was not referred or brought before the government, she cannot say anything.

The Delhi High Court had earlier, in an interim order, directed the CBI to maintain status quo regarding proceedings against Asthana.

Kumar, who was arrested on October 22, was granted bail on October 31. Prasad was arrested on October 17, 2018 and he was granted bail on December 18 as the CBI could not file the charge-sheet in the case in the stipulated time of 60 days.

Verma had said in the affidavit there was sufficient incriminating documents and evidence against all accused-Asthana, Kumar and middleman Manoj Prasad-with the CBI and the FIR was lodged after the PE disclosed cognisable offences.

He had claimed that Asthana's plea was misconceived, premature and not maintainable as investigation in the matter was at a nascent stage.

Kumar, earlier the investigating officer in a case involving meat exporter Moin Qureshi, was arrested on the allegations of forgery in recording the statement of Sana who had alleged to have paid a bribe to get relief in the case. Sana, on whose complaint the FIR was lodged, had also made allegations of corruption, extortion, high-handedness and serious malpractices against Asthana.

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