New Delhi: The Supreme Court of India is likely to hear CBI director Alok Verma's petition today which he filed challenging the government's decision to strip him of his powers.

A three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices SK Kaul and KM Joseph is also scheduled to hear another plea by non-profit organisation, Common Cause, which asks for a Special Investigative Team probe into corruption allegations against some CBI officials, Verma, and his deputy Rakesh Asthana. 

Also read: CBI vs CBI: Intelligence Bureau to file case with Delhi Police for illegally detaining officers on duty

Senior jurist Fali Nariman will represent Mr Verma in the top court; Attorney General KK Venugopal will represent the centre, and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta will appear for the Central Vigilance Commission.

Here’s a breakdown of the case:

Who’s involved?

•    CBI special director Rakesh Asthana: He was appointed to the CBI by Narendra Modi in 2017. Common Cause, an NGO, had expressed concern over the appointment of the high-profile Gujarat-cadre who had investigated the Godra train burning incident of 2002. Asthana was under investigation in the Sterling Biotech case at the time of his appointment to the CBI – to which, both Common Cause and CBI chief Alok Verma had objected to his recruitment. Asthana is also in charge of a special CBI team that is looking into alleged corruption of officers connected to infamous meat exporter, Moin Qureshi.

Also read: CBI vs CBI: 4 men held 'snooping' outside ousted director Alok Verma's Delhi Home

•    CBI director Alok Verma: A former Delhi Police commissioner, Verma is the head of the investigation agency. Verma was opposed to Asthana’s appointment from a long time, owing to his involvement in the Sterling Biotech case. Asthana alleged that it was the Verma who took the bribe in the case of Moin Qureshi.

•    Moin Qureshi: He started off as the owner of a small slaughterhouse in Uttar Pradesh and went on to become the biggest meat exporter of India. During the 2014 election campaign, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had accused then Congress president Sonia Gandhi of protecting him from Income Tax raids. Qureshi was also allegedly close to two former CBI directors and had exchanged messages with former CBI chief AP Singh, which brought him under I-T and ED scrutiny. Qureshi was raided in 2014 and the ED has been pursuing a Rs 200-crore money laundering case against him ever since.

•    Satish Sana: A Hyderabad-based businessman who is being investigated in connection with Qureshi, Sana alleged that he was asked to pay a bribe of Rs 5 crore to Asthana to be rid of the case. Sana ‘admitted’ to bribing the CBI director during an investigation. This was revealed in Asthana’s letter to the Cabinet Secretary.

How did it all begin?

•    October 15 – The CBI registers an FIR based on the claims of Satish Sana under sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act related to public servants accepting bribes. 

•    The FIR named Asthana and Devender Kumar, CBI deputy superintendent of police who was arrested on October 22. 

•    The FIR also named two middlemen – Manoj Prasad and Somesh Prasad.
•    Manoj was arrested on October 16 while returning from Dubai on his way to collect an installment of the bribe.

•    The CBI claimed to have analysed nine phone calls immediately after his arrest.

•    The calls were allegedly exchanged between Asthana and a senior officer of another intelligence agency.

•    The calls were also exchanged between the senior officer and the wife of the middleman Somesh Prasad, among others, an officer claimed.

Two sides of the same coin

Rakesh Asthana – He alleged that it was the Alok Verma who took the bribe in case of Moin Qureshi. He also alleged he was framed for preventing Sama from skipping the country and pressing him to cooperate with the investigation. 

On October 15, Asthana reportedly wrote to the Central Vigilance Commission about Verma and CBI joint director Arun Kumar Sharma trying to falsely implicate him.

Asthana had also accused the CBI chief of trying to frame him in the case of Sterling Biotech.

Alok Verma – Even though the CBI chief has not said anything, he has continuously tried to rebut Asthana’s allegations. In September, in a letter, the CBI said that Asthana’s allegations against Verma were ‘malicious’ and ‘frivolous’. The CBI director used the official public relations wing to defend himself against corruption charges. 

Latest updates

•    Alok Verma has moved to suspend his deputy, Rakesh Asthana.

•    Verma has moved a note against Asthana that was prepared over the weekend and vetted by the agency's Director of Prosecution. In the note sent to the government, Verma makes the case that Asthana continuing in CBI "is a source of demoralisation" for the other officers.

•    The CBI arrested Devendra Kumar, one of the members of Asthana’s team on Monday, and the agency reportedly raided offices in its own building.

•    The government appointed its most trusted trouble-shooter, national security advisor Ajit Doval, to sort out the issue.

•    Doval is now expected to talk to all the officers involved and understand the issue, claims and give a solution

•    Rakesh Asthana won’t be arrested till October 29. The Delhi High Court has said that no coercive action will be taken till the next hearing.