In 2012, Rakesh Asthana was accused of ‘collusion’ with Narendra Modi-led state government by officer in Ishrat Jahan case

By Deepal Trivedi, Ahmedabad Mirror | Updated: Oct 228, 2018,

Even as CBI’s internal war has escalated and the Supreme Court is all set to decide whether the Government has the right to send CBI Director Alok Verma on a forced leave and ban his entry into his office, Mirror has obtained evidence that points out to a cosy relationship between Narendra Modi government and Rakesh Asthana, currently a special director with the CBI.

The internal fight in the BJP is following a spat between Director Verma and Special Director Rakesh Asthana. Verma has registered an FIR against Asthana, accusing him of extortion and corruption.

However, the Narendra Modi government, instead of backing the chief of its premier agency, divested Verma of his duties and sent him on leave.

The government also declared that Rakesh Asthana was on leave. Alok Verma is challenging the government for taking away his charge. The Supreme Court is hearing the matter today.

The government action of sending Verma on leave and not taking any action against Asthana drew the ire of the Opposition which made charges that the latter was the blue-eyed boy of Prime Minister Modi.

The Modi government has not responded to these allegations but Mirror has a copy of a complaint made in Gujarat High Court on June 4, 2012, which highlighted “collusive meeting of mind between the government and Rakesh Asthana”.

This is the first concrete evidence that points out to a cosy relationship between the BJP government at the Centre and Rakesh Asthana.

Asthana is a Gujarat-cadre IPS office of 1984 batch and was posted in the CBI. He was made an interim director of the agency and was all set to take charge as the Director when an NGO challenged the appointment, pointing out that the CBI was investigating a corruption charge against him and hence he could not be given the reins of India’s premier most investigative agency.

Later, as per rule, a collegium appointed Alok Verma as the Director. Asthana was appointed a special director but he was temperamentally not ready to accept a subordinate position. Fuelled by his rivalry with a co-Gujarat officer A K Sharma, there were serious differences between Asthana and Alok Verma.

Alok Verma has now knocked on the Supreme Court’s doors for justice. Evidence with Mirror points out that Rakesh Asthana enjoyed supreme confidence of the Government when Amit Shah was the state minister of home affairs and Narendra Modi was the Chief Minister of Gujarat.

‘Verma’s complaint’

Acriminal miscellaneous application (Number 7517, Gujarat High Court, Ahmedabad) was made that clearly said Rakesh Asthana “indulged in systematic and wilful acts. Though he was unauthorised, he tried to interfere to derail the investigations into a false and coerced manner”.

This was no random complaint. The complainant was a senior IPS officer himself. Satish Verma, a 1986 IPS officer was appointed by the Gujarat High Court itself to oversee the investigation of Ishrat Jahan encounter case as part of a three-member Special Investigation Team. Later the investigation was transferred, ironically to the CBI. It was then that Satish Verma complained that Rakesh Asthana had no authority but interfered in the investigation with the aim of ensuring that it did not contradict the Gujarat government stand.

‘Unauthorised interference’

Satish Verma had seized a hard disk of a computer from the State-run Forensics Science Laboratory on March 3, 2011. The hard disk reportedly contained evidence pertaining to the Ishrat case which was until then not declared by the Gujarat government as it contradicted their stand on the case.

On May 28, 2012, Rakesh Asthana wrote to Satish Verma saying that he was authorised by Gujarat government to enquire as to how Verma had got the hard disk. Satish Verma questioned the letter number PA/FSL/Inq/224/2012 pointing out that Rakesh Asthana had no locus standi in the case.

Rakesh Asthana was first the commissioner of Vadodara and then Rajkot when Verma complained to Gujarat High Court of his “unauthorised interference and collusion with State Government”. Verma had pointed out that Asthana had no right to interfere since the investigations were monitored by the High Court and not the Gujarat government.

‘Coerced into signing false document’

An FSL additional director B K Mistry who had lodged complaint against Satish Verma had later said that he was coerced into signing a false complaint. The Gujarat government transferred Mistry. So Mistry wrote a letter to the SIT (letter number SITDCB-8-04/1471/2011) where he clearly said that his complaint fell under the jurisdiction of Shahibaug in Ahmedabad city and the DGP had not entrusted the Vadodara CP to inquire into the matter but still Rakesh Asthana continued to interfere. Asthana also summoned Mistry twice to Vadodara for interrogation and Mistry said nobody had an idea of the enquiry that Asthana was conducting.

Satish Verma also told the High Court in his petition “even if somebody in government formally instituted the enquiry, it amounted to unauthorised interference done by the SIT constituted and monitored by the Honourable Gujarat High Court”.

Verma asked through his petition:

(a) Why did Gujarat government select Rakesh Asthana, who was the police commissioner of Vadodara when he was not based in Ahmedabad or Gandhinagar (b) Is this enquiry done in an underhand and covert manner Satish Verma clearly said that Rakesh Asthana’s unauthorised interference was an example of blatant State- sponsored obstruction and interference in an investigation which may also amount to an offence under the IPC.

In yet another letter on October 15, 2011, Satish Verma wrote to the SIT chairman saying, “There was an obstruction to my investigation and those proactive in this had a context to do so.” The High Court then transferred the investigation to the CBI.

Satish Verma complained, “Rakesh Asthana continued his unauthorised interference and enquiry even after he was transferred to Surat. Asthana called officers “to examine” them in Surat. “Why has the Gujarat government chosen Asthana who has no connection or jurisdiction to enquire and why was an exception made that the inquiry stayed with Asthana even when he was transferred”.

All the while Asthana made enquiries about the Ishrat encounter case, the State government did not inform the Gujarat High Court about it. Satish Verma clearly said in his complaint that “Asthana’s enquiry is an attempt to prejudice the investigation of the case and Asthana’s actions indicate sponorship and concerted plan of influence by a number of highly placed executives of the State which goes to substantiate that directions to Asthana have emanated from very higher quarters in the Government”.

The Ishrat Jahan encounter case was about a 19 year old Mumbai girl killed in what was described as a staged encounter. Later on, it was proved that the girl was a terrorist out to kill Gujarat Chief Minister narendra Modi.

A senior BJP MP from Delhi told Mirror, “We all know that Rakesh Asthana is the blue-eyed boy of Prime Minister Modi. We could not dare to complain against Asthana. Asthana was in direct touch with top BJP leaders and ignored us”.

It is because of Asthana that our Government has lost face, the MP claimed, saying “Congress President Rahul Gandhi is not wrong in saying the CBI internal war is because of Centre’s interference and that Asthana is the blue-eyed boy of the Prime Minister”. ( Ahmedabad Mirror )