NEW DELHI: Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Monday parried questions on 1984-batch Gujarat cadre IPS officer Rakesh Asthana's promotion as Special Director of CBI.
An order issued late on Sunday night by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet(ACC) headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi cleared Asthana's elevation. Asthana’s promotion came amid reports that an empowered committee of the Central Vigilance Commission raised integrity concerns for the Gujarat cadre officer. The CVC panel also reportedly did not grant vigilance clearance to Asthana.
At a Press conference to announce the initiation of the dialogue process in Jammu and Kashmir, Singh, when asked on the controversial appointment of Asthana, said, "Please only ask questions related to it (matter on Jammu and Kashmir)."
Before his promotion, Asthana was holding the post of Additional Director, CBI heading Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing high-profile cases including bank fraud case against fugitive liquour baron Vijay Mallya and AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam.
Asthana, a 1984-batch IPS officer of Gujarat cadre, was working as additional director in the probe agency. He is the head of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing high- profile cases such as bank fraud case against Vijay Mallya and AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam.
Raising doubts over his integrity, anti-corruption activist and senior Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan said in a tweet: "See PM's desperation to promote this tainted officer who was earlier appt acting Dir CBI. Govt shows meeting of ACC on Sunday when PM in Guj!(sic)." The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC), headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and having Rajnath Singh as its lone member, had approved Asthana's elevation.
In another tweet, Bhushan said, "Brazenness with which Modi govt violates law grows daily. ACC promotes offr as SPL Dir CBI in violation of SC orders (sic)." "Amazing! Govt promotes Asthana as SPL Dir CBI, despite the CVC panel rejecting it because of lack of integrity! (sic)," he said in a separate tweet.
A panel headed by Central Vigilance Commissioner K V Chowdary reportedly red-flagged Asthana's promotion, citing his alleged involvement in a corruption case.
According to senior government officials, Asthana is tipped to be the next chief of the CBI.
Besides Asthana, the ACC also accorded the rank of Special DG to Javeed Ahmed, a 1984-batch IPS officer who is currently Director of NICFS (National Institute of Criminology and Forensic Science) under the Union Home Ministry.
1984-batch IPS officers Deepak Mishra, AGMU cadre, and Sudeep Lakhtakia, Telangana cadre, were promoted as Special DG in the CRPF. Both were serving in the CRPF as Additional DG before the promotion.
A P Maheshwari, UP cadre, and Rajesh Ranjan, Bihar cadre, both 1984-batch IPS officers who held the posts of additional DG in the BSF, were promoted as Special DG in the force.
Two 1984-batch IPS officers posted as Additional Director in the Intelligence Bureau (IB) - Gurbachan Singh, Orissa cadre, and Arvind Kumar (Assam-Meghalaya cadre)-were promoted as Special Directors.