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Rakesh Asthana gets support from former boss

Former West Bengal minister Upendranath Biswas, who retired as an additional director of the CBI, told ET that Asthana was “incapable of being dishonest”.

, ET Bureau|
Last Updated: Oct 02, 2018, 09.38 AM IST|Original: Oct 02, 2018, 08.31 AM IST
Asthana visited Kolkata at the end of July to supervise the cases in West Bengal, and also met Biswas at his residence in Kolkata.
KOLKATA: Rakesh Asthana, special director of the Central Bureau of Investigation who has accused CBI director Alok Verma of trying to stall raids against Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad in the alleged IRCTC hotels-for-land scam probe last year, has received support from his former boss.

Former West Bengal minister Upen Biswas, who retired as an additional director of the CBI, told ET that Asthana was “incapable of being dishonest”. Biswas, who was in charge of the Bihar fodder scam investigation in CBI, said Asthana was part of his core team and reported to him for ten years.

Now chairman of the West Bengal Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Development Finance Corporation, Biswas said that Asthana was one of his juniors who had stood “firm” with him “despite huge pressure from the higher ups” during the investigation. In Asthana’s last ACR (annual confidential report) – now known as annual performance appraisal report (APAR) – Biswas said he had marked Asthana as “incorruptible”.

Biswas said that although he was not aware of the contents of the six cases filed by the CBI against Asthana, including one related to the fodder scam investigation, there was “no scope to raise questions on the investigation of fodder scam”.

“If there is a case related to fodder scam filed against him (Asthana), then I must say that all cases of fodder scam, barring one, ended in conviction. In one case, trial is still on. This is a record in CBI’s history. The cases had passed through several layers of judicial system. Had there been any discrepancy in the process of investigation, it would not have led to conviction,” Biswas told ET.

Among the six cases is one against Kolkata businessman Dipesh Chandak, who had turned approver in the fodder scam probe, according to a person aware of the matter.

Biswas had joined Trinamool Congress in 2011 and was elected as MLA from Bagda constituency, after which he served as backward class welfare minister.

Asthana visited Kolkata at the end of July to supervise the cases in West Bengal, and also met Biswas at his residence in Kolkata. “I saw him after almost 15 long years. It was purely a personal visit,” said Biswas. “He came to my house with his family. He remained scrupulously silent about his professional issues. During the fodder scam probe, I was the person who advised him to return to his cadre after ten years in CBI as he had made many enemies for being an honest officer by then.”

Asthana, a 1984 batch Indian Police Service officer of Gujarat cadre, had served as superintendent of police, CBI in Dhanbad and then as director general of police, CBI in Patna under Biswas during the fodder scam probe.

“I cannot comment on his (Asthana’s) last 15 years of service as I had retired by then,” said Biswas. “But, I have always known him as a fighter. He could have made crores during the fodder scam probe, but he never fell for any luring. He did not fall prey to the manipulation by the top brass of CBI then and I think he would also not fall in line now. He will continue to fight, whether he is in service or out of it.”

Asked about Asthana’s allegations against the CBI director, Biswas said, “It is nothing new. It has always been the top post where political influence reaches first. In the horizontal line of CBI structure, some officers fall in line and some refuse. During the fodder scam probe, barring one director, all tried to trap me in several ways and restrict me from continuing with a fair probe. One of the directors invited me for a working lunch and said that he had managed everybody including the chief justice. He mocked me – saying ‘Ab kya karoge bacchu (What will you do now)? – since judiciary had remained at the core of my strength. So these spats look normal to me.”

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