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FIR alleging bribery a backlash to complaints made against CBI Chief, Asthana tells HC

CBI Special Director Rakesh Asthana Wednesday claimed before the Delhi High Court that the FIR lodged against him on bribery allegations was a backlash to complaints of criminal misconduct by the probe agency's chief Alok Kumar Verma.

Asthana also said that prior approval from the competent authority is mandatory to initiate probe against a public servant which was not taken in this case.

He further said that the CBI avoided this issue in its response filed earlier to his petition seeking quashing of the FIR against him.

Asthana made these claims in his rejoinder to CBI's response to his petition.

The rejoinder was filed before Justice Najmi Waziri who extended till November 28 its order asking the CBI to maintain status quo on proceedings against Asthana.

Asthana also claimed that the FIR was ante-dated and the question of merits of the FIR cannot be looked into as it was registered whilst showing complete disregard to the statutory procedure.

He said the statement of complainant Sathish Babu Sana was recorded under section 164 CrPC on October 4 and after 11 days, without obtaining the mandatory prior approval under section 17A of the Prevention of Corruption Act, the FIR was purportedly registered on October 15 at 8 PM.

Sana had alleged to have paid bribe CBI officials to settle a case involving meat exporter Moin Qureshi.

The FIR reached the concerned magistrate only after 51 hours of the registration of the FIR on October 17 at 11:51 PM, the rejoinder stated.

"This goes to show that the FIR was ante-dated. This was done to firstly defy the legal and binding directions of the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) and was also due to the futile attempts of the respondents to extract a confession from Manoj Prasad (alleged middleman and accused) to falsely implicate the petitioner (Asthana)," he said.

He added that though the FIR has to be uploaded on the agency's website within 24 hours, it was uploaded after five days on the night of October 21.

"The FIR deserves to be quashed as it was a mere backlash to the various complaints of criminal misconduct on the part of respondent no. 2 (Verma)," he said.

The rejoinder claimed that the FIR was a "malicious intent" to malign Asthana's reputation.

It said the CBI's averment that the FIR cannot be challenged is liable to be rejected, in as much as, Verma directed registration of the FIR despite the fact that he had been directed by the CVC to obtain prior approval under Section 17A of the PC Act.

"Filing of charge sheet and other procedural requirements cannot be allowed to be proceeded with in view of the gross illegalities of procedure adopted by the respondent agency in the registration and investigation of the FIR," it added.

CBI has opposed in the high court Asthana's plea seeking to quash the FIR against him, saying that allegations against the officer and others show cognisable offences.

The agency has also said the investigation in the case was at nascent stage and it was "handicapped" in the probe as certain files and documents were under the CVC scrutiny.

The files and documents have been sent to the CVC as the Supreme Court has directed the vigilance body to conduct enquiry against Verma.

CBI had filed the reply in response to the notice issued to it on the petition filed by Asthana against the lodging of case.