Centre reduces tenure of CBI top brass: Full updates from the Alok Verma-Asthana row

A week after reversing the Supreme Court order to reinstate former Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) director Alok Verma, the centre on Thursday approved a proposal to curtail the tenure of his second-in-command Special Director Rakesh Asthana. It was the spat between the two which had arrested the entire nation’s attention since October, but the bathos of its culmination is lost on the centre which continues its CBI purge unabated.

The tenures of three other officers namely Joint Director Arun Sharma, Deputy Inspector General Manish Sinha, and Superintendent of Police Jayant Naiknavare have also been censured, with immediate effect.

The high-powered selection committee which had re-removed Verma from the top role earlier this is scheduled to appoint the new CBI director on January 24.

Here’s what happened

Naming the four officials, an official notification said that the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet on Thursday had approved the Department of Personnel and Training’s proposal to curtail their tenure. Within hours of his removal from the CBI, Asthana took over as the new Director General of the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS), the alacrity of which soon became the talk of the town. Although it means his career at the agency is over, helming the BCAS is a fairly prestigious post.

Of the three IPS officers whose tenures were curtailed, at least two of them, Sharma and Sinha, are believed to have been Verma’s factional aides or loyalists. They were probing the corruption allegations against Asthana and were regarded as close to the former director in his intra-agency feud with Asthana.


The beleaguered former CBI chief had been sent on leave in October, along with Asthana, after they accused each other of corruption. He had moved the top court questioning the move, following which the court probed the charges against him and decided to reinstate him on January 8. Verma resigned from the services two days later, after the selection committee headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi which was asked to take the final call, decided to remove him.

Asthana faces serious corruption charges, including receiving kickbacks and extorting money from Hyderabad-based businessman Sathish Babu Sana, who is being investigated in the high-profile laundering case concerning meat explorer Moin Qureshi. He was even charge-sheeted and according to latest reports, the Delhi High Court has refused to quash a First Information Report filed against him.

Purge continues at the agency

Asthana’s removal from the nodal investigation agency has been clouded by as much controversy as his appointment. Although his exit was predictable following his spat with Verma over corruption charges, it was also predicated on the need to manage the massive political fallout of removing Verma within 48 hours of his reinstatement by the Supreme Court.

No one has been left unscathed by the entire controversy, including Justice Sikri, a member of the high-powered panel who was nominated by CJI Ranjan Gogoi to replace him, after which he cast a career-ending vote against Verma (2:1). Earlier this week, Sikri withdrew his consent to be nominated for an international post-retirement posting, to quell criticism of his integrity and vested interests.

Besides Prime Minister Modi and Gogoi, the panel comprised Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, the only member banking for Verma. Kharge later said that the agency cannot be run by an interim director, referring to M Nageswara Rao, and called for a hasty appointment of the director.

As the seems set to repeat its October reshuffle of CBI’s highest echelons, some of the high profile cases the agency is currently investigating include a $2 billion fraud at Punjab National Bank involving fugitive diamond billionaire Nirav Modi, the AgustaWestland Chopper scam, the Rafale deal, and loan defaults by liquor baron Vijay Mallya.

Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius

Alok VermaCBICorruptionJustice SikriRakesh Asthana