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CBI ‘books’ its Special Director in bribery case

Apart from Asthana, the CBI has also named Samant Kumar Goel, Special Director of India’s external intelligence agency RAW, but not an accused.

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Rakesh Asthana

New Delhi, Oct 21 : The Central Bureau of Investigation has charged its own Special Director Rakesh Asthana with accepting bribe to settle a case of meat exporter Moin Qureshi, who is facing multiple cases of money laundering and corruption.

Though the CBI was tight-lipped over whether it has lodged any FIR naming its Number 2 officer after the agency’s Director Alok Verma, multiple sources within the agency and in the government did not rule out the possibility.

Both Verma and Asthana could not be reached for comment.

Asthana, a 1984 batch Indian Police Service officer of Gujarat cadre, is accused of accepting a bribe of Rs 2 crore from a businessman who was under probe in the Qureshi case in order to “wreck” the investigation. The case was being examined by a special investigation team (SIT) headd by Asthana.

Sources said the CBI lodged the FIR earlier this week after the arrest of a middleman Manoj Kumar, who has given a confessional statement before a magistrate confirming the payment of Rs 2 crore to Asthana.

Manoj has reportedly admitted that he had paid the bribe on behalf of Qureshi, who is being probed by the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on charges of money laundering for a host of public servants. Qureshi was arrested by the ED in August last year under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.

Apart from Asthana, the CBI has also named Samant Kumar Goel, Special Director of India’s external intelligence agency RAW, but not an accused.

The latest move is another indication of the escalating internal war within the CBI’s top officials, Verma and Asthana.

Earlier, Asthana had filed a complaint against the CBI Director accusing him of interfering in the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation corruption case involving family members of Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Lalu Prasad.

Subsequently, in a press statement, the agency had denied Asthana’s charges against the CBI Director and asserted that the Special Director himself was under probe in half-a-dozen cases and was trying to intimidate officials who were probing his role.

High-profile investigator Asthana enjoyed a clout in the CBI as most high-profile cases involving politicians were handled by him. These include graft charges against Lalu Prasad, former Union minister Chidambaram and his son Karti, and the AgustaWestland chopper deal.

The fight between them has raged for several months with Verma allegedly seeking to block Asthana’s elevation as special director on the ground that the latter was being probed in some cases. The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), however, brushed aside the objection, saying that the charges against Asthana were not substantial, a decision which was later upheld by the Supreme Court.

The rift came out in the open once again when the CBI Director objected to the CVC calling Asthana as the CBI’s representative for a meeting when the former was abroad on an official trip.

India

Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh pay tributes to Nehru

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New Delhi, Nov 14: UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, former Prime Minister Manmohan and others paid homage to the nation’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru on his birth anniversary at Shanti Van.

Former President Pranab Mukherjee, former Vice President Hamid Ansari, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh along with Gandhi and senior Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad, Ashok Gehlot, P.C. Chacko among others paid floral tributes to Nehru at the Shanti Vana here.

President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi also remembered Nehru.

‘Remembering Shri Jawaharlal Nehru, our first Prime Minister, on his birth anniversary’, President Kovind tweeted.

“We recall his contribution to our freedom struggle and during his tenure as Prime Minister”, Modi said in a tweet.

Born on November 14, 1889, Nehru took oath as the first Prime Minister on August 15, 1947, after the country attained independence from the British rule.

Chacha Nehru served the country till May 27, 1964. He still remains as the country’s longest-serving Prime Minister.

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Rafale Jet deal hearing in Supreme Court underway

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Rafale deal scam

New Delhi, Nov 14: The Supreme Court on Wednesday began its crucial hearing on pleas seeking a court-monitored investigation into the Rafale fighter jets deal. 

A bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph to examine the pricing details of the 36 Rafale fighter jets which  India is procuring from France.

The central government on Monday submitted over a 14-page document related to details of its decision-making process before the apex court in a sealed cover.

The initial arguments were started by petitioner advocate Manohar Lal Sharma.

Sharma told the bench that report filed by the government in the court reveals that there has been serious fraud while making the decision post May 2015.

He urged Supreme Court that the matter be heard by a five-judge bench.

Counsel appearing for AAP leader Sanjay Singh told the top court that pricing of the 36 Rafale aircraft deal was revealed in the Parliament twice, hence, the submission of government that pricing details cannot be made public was not acceptable.

Senior lawyer, Prashant Bhushan, appearing for former Union minister Arun Shourie, who is also one of the petitioners in the Rafale deal case, submitted to the three-judge Apex Court that only in three situations, the intergovernmental route can be resorted.

He also told the Apex Court that there was no sovereign guarantee from the side of the France government in the deal.

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Chhattisgarh: 5 Security Personnel, 1 Civilian injured in Bijapur blast

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Bijapur, Nov 14: Five security personnel and one civilian were injured on Wednesday in an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) blast in Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh.

The incident occurred at around 9:00 am in a truck carrying Border Security Forces (BSF) troops of 414 Adhoc Batallion in the Bijapur Ghatti area.

Out of the five security personnel injured, four of them belonged to BSF while one person was from District Reserve Guard (DRG).

“4 BSF jawans, one DRG and one civilian have been injured in IED blast in Bijapur Ghatti (7 kms from Bijapur). All injured have been admitted to a hospital in Bijapur”, Deputy Inspector General of Police (Naxal Operation) P Sundarraj told ANI.

The blast took place two days after the first phase of assembly election to 18 seats in the state.

In the other incident a gunfight broke out during a search operation not far from the IED blast spot. The 85 Battalion of the CRPF troopers were attacked by the insurgents. “Firing is still on,” Deputy Inspector General M. Dinakaran said.

Both attacks took place simultaneously at 9.15 a.m. in the Mahadev Ghat area, a police officer said.

It was the ninth Maoist attack in 19 days in the poll-bound state where the second phase of voting to 72 seats will take place on November 20.

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