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Contradiction in CBI entries: CVC probe alleges bias against Rakesh Asthana

Alok Verma contended in his deposition on November 9, 2018, that the CVC had a bias against him.
New Delhi: The Central Vigilance Commission probe into allegations against ousted CBI director Alok Verma has, in its findings, observed that he had “clear prejudice and bias” against special director Rakesh Asthana, allegedly borne out by a October 2017 ‘secret note’ meant to hold up the latter’s promotion.

The probe report, ET has reliably gathered, has found that the secret note Verma submitted to the CVC-led selection committee on October 21, 2017, had 23 entries while the CBI special unit had provided only 22 entries. The entries are about payments made by a company called Sterling Biotech to Asthana and the special unit was looking into the matter.

Verma, however, contended in his deposition on November 9, 2018, that the CVC had a bias against him, which was “rebutted” according to those familiar with the details of the probe.

The controversial extra entry made in the secret note was the largest, of about Rs 3.38 crore, which took the total amount of the entries against Asthana in the Sterling Biotech diaries to Rs 3.94 crore. This was way beyond the amount received as rent from the flat leased to the company, which is how Asthana has sought to explain the payments.

But the CVC probe found that as per the case diary of the investigating officer, this particular transaction did not name Asthana, and were between another company, Thermax, and Sterling Biotech.

“Prima facie notings by the IO show that M/s Thermax confirmed the commercial transaction with Sterling Group of Companies (and) did not name Shri Asthana as having any interest in these transactions,” the CVC report is said to have noted in its list of queries to Verma as part of its probe.

The queries, which have been recorded in the report, were sent on November 7, soon after the Supreme Court ordered the probe, to Verma.

The CVC is believed to have noted that Verma “chose not to reply to these queries”.

Verma’s reply, which came a day later on November 8, does address another query on how the secret note was prepared by the special unit for the October 21, 2017 meeting — which was to decide on Asthana’s promotion to special director — when the investigating officer has recorded that he received the material only on October 23, 2017.

Here, Verma has claimed that the special unit was conducting “discreet verification” and that the IO only took possession of the records when a case could be registered.

The CVC wanted to examine the then DIG of the special unit but he was not made available to the probe, added sources.

On the issue of how 22 entries became 23 entries, the probe notes that Verma “maintained silence”.

The first half of the report is devoted to the issue of Asthana’s promotion, which the CVC probe monitored by Justice AK Patnaik, observed was the “genesis of the recent developments in CBI”.

The CVC probe, ET has learnt, also took exception to the fact that Verma did not disclose the source of the secret note to the Commission to establish its authenticity despite repeated reminders.

Even after the probe, CVC has asked the CBI to submit a report on the matter. “Irrespective of the source of the said secret note, report has been called for its merits from CBI and appropriate action would

be taken on receipt of the report,” the probe is said to have observed. While flagging off “prejudice and bias” against Asthana, the CVC is believed to have observed that “the Commission has no brief for any officer”
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