NEW DELHI: After sending the top three CBI officers in the agency's hierarchy on leave, Union Minister Arun Jaitley Wednesday announced that a Special Investigation Team (SIT) will probe into the bribery case.
"This is an extraordinary situation. A SIT, not functioning under either of these officers, will be formed to probe the matter. To maintain the institutional integrity of CBI and in the interest of fairness, purely as an interim measure, they will sit out by going on leave. This is in accordance with highest standards of fairness," said Jaitley. The date of the constitution of the SIT has not been revealed.
"Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) in its yesterday's meeting said neither these two officers (Arun Verma and Rakesh Asthana) nor any agency under their supervision can investigate charges against them. So the officers will sit out by going on leave. It's an interim measure," he added.
In a fast-paced midnight development, CBI Joint Director M Nageshwar Rao was appointed as the interim head of the investigative agency by the Prime Minister-led Appointments Committee of the Cabinet.
On Wednesday morning, CBI chief Alok Verma, Special Director Rakesh Asthana and Additional Director AK Sharma were sent on leave. Verma has approached the Supreme Court challenging the decision. His petition will be heard on Friday, October 26.
The CBI later appointed a new team to probe the bribery charges against Special Director Rakesh Asthana. The team consists of Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Tarun Gauba, Superintendent of Police (SP) Satish Dagar and Joint Director V Murugesan.
Stating that the CBI's institutional intergrity needs to be maintained, Jaitley added, “CBI is the largest investigative agency of the country. It is important to maintain the institutional integrity of the agency. It is a pre-condition and absolutely essential for fair investigation.”
"Director has been accused by the Special Director. A Special Director has been accused by the CBI. Two topmost officers of CBI have been accused. Now who will investigate it? Requirements of fairness and fair play have to be there. Government can't investigate it," added the Finance Minister.
Amid the internal feud between the investigative agency, several top officers probing the case of Rakesh Asthana were transferred on Wednesday.
For the first time in its history of CBI, the top three officers in the agency's hierarchy have been sent on leave. At least three top officers working closely with the top two feuding CBI bosses have also been sent on leave. This historic move came after the feud between the CBI no. 1 Verma and no. 2 Asthana went public.
In an unprecedented act, the investigative agency booked its second-in-command Asthana, who's in an open feud with chief Verma, for alleged bribery in a case involving meat exporter Moin Qureshi on Sunday. Following this, Prime Minister Narendra Modi stepped in amid the fracas between the top two officials on Monday night. PMO summoned Verma and Asthana in an apparent bid to put a lid on the open war between the two officials who have levelled bribery allegations against each other.