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Above: CBI Special Director Rakesh Asthana

Notations in a photocopy and the original diary which mentions Asthana’s name differ, adding to the controversy over the CBI officer’s promotion

Two submissions to the Supreme Court by the same petitioner have been lately rejected, one even resulting in a Rs 25 lakh fine. The top court has not taken lightly to such petitions that, according to the judges, lack merit.

Of them, in fact, one was rather daring. When the CBI was investigating  Gujarat-based Sansesara group company Sterling Biotech Limited for allegedly cheating public sector banks of Rs 5,383 crore, it had recovered a diary in which the names of supposed payees were mentioned. Among them was one “RA”, supposedly a businessman.

Not much was made of “RA” before senior advocate Prashant Bhushan, through his organisation, Common Cause, alleged in a petition that he had unearthed what this abbreviation stands for. He zeroed in on Gujarat cadre IPS officer Rakesh Asthana, who had just been appointed the new special director of the CBI. He said Asthana should not be allowed to take over this sensitive post because he was named a payee in the scam and also that the CBI director himself had not okayed this appointment.

The Supreme Court dismissed the case. Justice RK Agrawal in his judgment noted: “The Director CBI has furnished a Secret/Confidential letter ID No. … in the meeting, enclosing an unsigned note on Sterling Biotech Ltd. and related entities. It is mentioned by the Director, CBI that the entries in the note refer, inter alia, to one Shri Rakesh Asthana. The Committee considered the note and the matter was also discussed with the Director, CBI. Keeping in view that there is no finding in these papers that the person mentioned therein is the same person under consideration for appointment and there is nothing about the veracity of the contents of the document and the further fact that the CBI itself moved the present proposal on 06.07.2017 wherein it has been categorically mentioned that Shri Rakesh Asthana IPS (GJ:1984) is suitable to hold the post of Special Director, CBI…”

This could have ended in another whimper, but India Legal has found a surprising element in this issue. The photocopy of the diary that was attached with the petition seemed to have “RA” replaced in one instance with Rakesh Asthana. This has escaped many eyes and it is not clear whether the petitioner is aware of this. The original diary does not have this “insertion”.

While that did little to add merit to the case, there is probably scope to investigate the incident as it is a sensitive issue. It must be remembered that the CBI case against Sterling was registered under the provisions of cheating, forgery of valuable security, forgery for the purpose of cheating, using forged documents, criminal conspiracy and criminal misconduct.

Among those named in the CBI chargesheet are Sterling Biotech Limi-ted, located in Gujarat’s Vadodara, its directors Chetan Jayantilal Sandesara, Dipti Chetan Sandesara, Rajbhushan Omprakash Dixit, Nitin Jayantilal Sandesara and Vilas Dattatray Joshi, as well as chartered accountant Hemant Hathi, then Andhra Bank Director Anup Garg and some public servants.

THE CJAR ISSUE AND A FINE

On December 1, the Supreme Court bench headed by Justice RK Agrawal and comprising Justices Arun Mishra and AM Khanwilkar dismissed a plea filed by the Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms (CJAR) seeking an SIT probe into the alleged Medical Council of India bribery case. The bench also imposed a fine of Rs 25 lakh on CJAR. The bench said that the fine amount would be used as funds for the Supreme Court Bar Association.

Appearing for CJAR, Bhushan argued that an SIT probe headed by a retired chief justice of India is necessary in the case so as to protect the integrity of the judiciary. He also said that the case was very sensitive and hence, should not be left with a body that is controlled by the executive.

The case is in connection with the medical college bribery scam against a retired Orissa High Court judge IM Quddusi. It was alleged that there was an attempt to bribe judges of the Supreme Court related to the registration of a UP medical college. Judge Quddusi has been arrested by the CBI.

Appearing for the central government, Attorney General KK Venugopal contended that the submissions made by Bhushan were exactly the same as the earlier petition filed by Kamini Jaiswal, which was dismissed by the Court. However, Bhushan argued that the PIL was being misconceived and that he intends to protect the judiciary.

The petitions of Kamini Jaiswal and CJAR were identical. Both demanded that CJI Dipak Misra and Justice Khanwilkar should not hear the case as both were on the bench that had heard the medical college case.

The Court, while dismissing Jaiswal’s petition, had rebuked the petitioners, calling it an attempt to bring disrepute to the judiciary.

Just like Jaiswal’s petition, the CJAR petition was also dismissed by the same bench of the apex court, with an additional fine of Rs 25 lakh on the petitioner. Reacting to the judgment, Bhushan tweeted that it was an “intimidation of the petitioner”.

THE 2G SCAM CASE

In the third instance, a top court bench hearing the 2G spectrum scam disclosed that it had received an anonymous letter stating that the Court “is being managed” in the case.

While Bhushan, appearing for NGO CPIL said such letters should not be used at all, the origin of the letter is shrouded in mystery. It was not only anonymous, but full of false statements casting aspersions on the judiciary.

—India Legal Team

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