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Facing probe in a corruption case, Asthana had been moved out of the CBI but appointed director general of the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security

The Supreme Court, on Thursday (January 31), dismissed a petition that has challenged the Centre’s January 18 decision of appointing tainted IPS officer Rakesh Asthana, facing corruption charges in a case pending before the Delhi High Court, as Director General of the bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS).

A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna refused to entertain the petition filed by ML Sharma on grounds that his plea had outlined multiple causes of action which were not interconnected with the issues raised. The bench also held that some of the matters flagged in the petition could be raised before a services tribunal but did not merit the top court’s indulgence.

“You can’t bring everything under the sky in a PIL… you have mixed multiple issues,” Chief Justice Gogoi told the petitioner before dismissing the case.

It may be recalled that Asthana, a controversial Gujarat cadre IPS officer known for his proximity to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has been in the eye of a storm ever since the CBI registered an FIR against him in a graft case linked with controversial Hyderabad-based businessman Sathish Sana which is currently pending before the Delhi High Court. Asthana was special director of the CBI when the FIR was registered and the episode had brought into public domain what has since been dubbed as a factional feud within the highest echelons of the probe agency. Asthana had accused then CBI director Alok Verma of framing him in the graft cases and claimed that it was Verma who had been the beneficiary of bribes in the Sana case.

The trading of charges between Verma and Asthana had led to the Central Vigilance Commission and the Centre sending the two officers on forced leave in a much publicized and controversial midnight coup of sorts on October 23. While Verma had challenged his ouster in the apex court, Asthana had moved the Delhi High Court seeking quashing of the FIR filed against him.

Verma had, earlier this month, been conditionally reinstated by the apex court which had found fault in the manner in which he was removed as CBI director. However, within two days of his reinstatement, Verma was summarily dismissed by the selection committee mandated for appointing the CBI director.

The selection committee’s decision to dismiss Verma had come close on the heels of a Delhi High Court order stating that the FIR against Asthana need not be quashed and that the CBI must investigate his role in the bribery case within 10 weeks. On January 17, days after the Delhi High Court’s order, the Centre had finally removed Asthana from his post of CBI special director. However, the very next day, notwithstanding the serious allegations against him and the pendency of a graft case in court, the Centre decided to appoint Asthana as DG, BCAS.

—India Legal Bureau

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