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CBI feud: Congress protests nationwide against govt., alleges attempts to ‘cage the CBI’

By PTI Updated: Oct 26, 2018 11:14 pm
Himachal Pradesh Congress in-charge Rajni Patil, state president Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu and party leaders raise slogans during a protest outside CBI office, in Shimla on Friday, Oct. 26.

New Delhi, Oct. 26 (PTI): Taking to the streets, the Congress on Friday took out nationwide protest marches to CBI offices accusing the government of trying to ‘cage the CBI’, as the party president Rahul Gandhi, along with several others, courted arrest and alleged “every institution was being ruined” in the country.

While Gandhi led hundreds of Congress workers and leaders on their protest march here, he was also joined by leaders from some other opposition parties as well, including from the CPI, Trinamool Congress and Loktantrik Janata Dal.

Similar marches were taken out by the Congress in Patna, Hyderabad, Gandhinagar (Gujarat), Mumbai, Bengaluru, Bhubaneshwar, Chandigarh and Hyderabad, among other cities. While police briefly detained the protesters at several places and released them later, there were no report of any violence.

In Chandigarh, police said they had to use water cannons against the agitators and also suspend traffic for some time around the area of protest. Traffic was impacted for some time in the national capital also on a few stretches.

Amid tight security arrangements by the police and with a large number of camerapersons jostling to record the protests, protesters moved on shouting slogans and carrying placards alleging the government of trying to ‘cage the CBI’.

The Congress has alleged Rafale link in the government decision to divest CBI Director Verma of his duties, but the government has rejected these allegations.

The nationwide protests by Congress took place on a day when the Supreme Court ordered completion of a CVC probe, under supervision of a retired judge, into allegations against the top CBI officials within two weeks.

While Gandhi refused to comment on the court order, saying that the process is “carrying on”, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley welcomed the order and said the government has no interest for or against any individual and is keen only on maintaining institutional integrity of the investigative agency.

Gandhi, who led the nearly one-kilometre protest march of hundreds of Congress workers from Dala Singh College to the CBI headquarters in the national capital, also tweeted pictures of the protest march and him sitting at the Lodhi Road police station and said, “No matter how hard the government tries, it will not be able to cage the truth.”

A police officer said 130 protesters including Gandhi and other Congress leaders such as Ashok Gehlot and Bhupinder Hooda were detained and released after 30 minutes.

Loktantrik Janata Dal leader Sharad Yadav, CPI leader D Raja and TMC’s Nadimul Haque also joined the Congress protest.

Asserting that people are coming on the streets to show Prime Minister Narendra Modi “the mirror of reality”, Gandhi lashed out at the government alleging that Modi “stole” money from the country and can run but not hide from the truth.

There were no immediate reactions from the Prime Minister’s Office on Gandhi’s allegations. While Ambani has been consistently denying the allegations, the BJP has accused Gandhi of manufacturing lies every day on the Rafale deal.

Asked about the commotion during his arrest, Gandhi said, “You can push me or arrest me as many times but I do not care.” At one point, he even got onto a truck in front of the police barricades put up ahead of the CBI headquarters to prevent the marchers from reaching the building.

The Congress leader alleged the Modi government of destroying institutions like the CBI, the Election Commission and the Enforcement Directorate.

“Every institution in India being ruined by the prime minister,” he alleged.

Joining Gandhi in the protest, Gehlot said the decision to remove the CBI director was “illegal” and such a decision can only be taken together by the chief justice of India, the leader of the opposition and the prime minister.

Replicating the Delhi protests, Congress workers, including scores of women, in Patna sat on a dharna outside the CBI office, carrying placards that read, ‘Save CBI, Save Democracy’.

The Congress was also joined by the Telugu Desam Party and CPI in their protest march in Hyderabad (Andhra Pradesh)

In Mumbai, city Congress president Sanjay Nirupam led the protest and accused Prime Minister Modi of “removing” Verma “illegally and by going against the Constitution”.

Over 40 Congress workers and leaders from Gujarat, including eight MLAs and a former state unit chief, were detained during their protest outside the CBI office in Gandhinagar. They were released later, the police said.

In Bengaluru also, the Congress workers protested in front of the CBI office, but several party MLAs and corporators were absent. While the party’s national general secretary and Karnataka in-charge K C Venugopal participated in the protest, party spokesperson Subhash Agarwal said the presence of MLAs and corpororators did not matter much as it was a symbolic agitation.

Former chief minister Siddaramaiah took to Twitter to target the prime minister over the CBI issue.

In Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, demonstrations were held in front of central government offices. In Bhunaneshwar, hundreds of Congress workers, wearing black T-shirts, tried to enter the CBI office, but were stopped by the security personnel at the gate.

Kerala Congress leaders marched to the local CBI office in Thiruvananthapuram. Similar demonstrations were held in Jammu, Ranchi, Dhanbad, Vijayawada, Guwahati, among other cities.

Spl. CBI director moves SC against Centre’s decision to divest him of duties

Special Director Rakesh Asthana, embroiled in an unprecedented feud with CBI Chief Alok Verma, moved the Supreme Court on Friday challenging the Centre’s decision to divest him of duties and sending him on leave and claimed that he was a “whistle-blower”.

In his petition, Asthana has also sought the removal of the CBI director from his post.

When a bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph was hearing Verma’s petition, the counsel appearing for Asthana drew the attention to the plea filed by him.

However, the bench said that it cannot grant any hearing on the oral submission as Asthana’s petition was not before it.

“We cannot hear something which is not before us,” the bench said.

Senior advocate and former Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Asthana, submitted that the petition has been filed before the Registry and sought that it be listed on October 29.

“We will see,” the bench said.

Rohatgi further said that Asthana has also been made a party in the PIL, filed by NGO ‘Common Cause’, seeking the court-monitored SIT probe into allegations of corruption against top officials of the probe agency.

Chronology of events in CBI case 

The following is the chronology of events leading up to the Supreme Court directing the CVC on Friday to complete its inquiry into allegations against CBI Director Alok Verma, who has challenged the Centre’s decision to divest him of all his powers:

  • April, 2016 – Gujarat-cadre IPS Officer Rakesh Asthana appointed Additional Director of CBI.
  • 3 – Asthana made interim CBI director after retirement of then chief Anil Sinha.
  • 19, 2017 – Alok Kumar Verma appointed CBI chief for tenure of two years.
  • 22, 2017 – CBI appoints Asthana as Special Director.
  • 2 – Advocate Prashant Bhushan moves SC on behalf of NGO, Common Cause, challenging Asthana’s appointment.
  • 28 – SC dismisses the petition.
  • July 12, 2018 – While Verma was abroad, CVC calls meeting to discuss promotions, seeks to know who will attend it. CBI responds Asthana has no mandate to represent Verma.
  • 24 – Asthana complaints to Cabinet Secretary alleging misconduct by Verma. Matter referred to CVC.
  • 21 – CBI tells CVC that Asthana was facing probe in six cases of corruption.
  • 15 – CBI lodges FIR with bribery allegations against Asthana, Deputy Superintendent of Police Devender Kumar, Dubai-based investment banker Manoj Prasad and his brother Somesh Prasad.
  • 16 – CBI arrests middleman Manoj Prasad.
  • 20 – CBI raids Kumar’s residence and office at its headquarters, claims to have seized his mobile phones and iPads.
  • Oct 22: CBI arrests Kumar alleging he “fabricated the statement” of businessman Sathish Sana, facing probe in a case involving meat exporter Moin Qureshi and had paid bribes to get relief.
  • 23 – Kumar moves HC seeking quashing of FIR against him. Hours later, Asthana too moves high court seeking quashing of FIR against him and direction to CBI not to take coercive steps against him. — Delhi HC orders status quo regarding Asthana, seeking response of CBI, Verma on both pleas.
    • Delhi trial court sends Kumar to 7-day CBI custody.
    • Late night, DoPT divests Verma of all his statutory obligations, appoints M Nageswara Rao as interim CBI chief.
  • 24 -Verma moves Supreme Court against govt order. Court fixes plea for hearing on Oct 26.
  • 25 – NGO Common Cause files PIL in SC seeking SIT probe into allegations of corruption against CBI officials including Asthana. SC says it would consider according urgent hearing.
    • Delhi court extends by five days CBI custody of Manoj Prasad.
    • Four Intelligence Bureau men held outside Verma’s official residence here. MHA says they were on routine duty and not spying.
  • Oct 26 – SC directs CVC to complete inquiry into complaint against Verma in two weeks, seeks response of CVC and Centre on Verma’s plea challenging government order.
    • Directs Rao not to take major or policy decisions, to file in sealed cover his decisions taken till now.
    • SC notice to Centre, CBI, CVC, Asthana, Verma and Rao on NGO’s plea, lists matter for Nov 12.
    • Manoj Prasad moves Delhi High Court seeking quashing of FIR.
By PTI Updated: Oct 26, 2018 11:14:55 pm