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Modi government under fire for sending CBI chief & deputy on leave

October 25, 2018

The head of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Alok Verma, his deputy Rakesh Asthana and many other officers of the CBI have been sent on leave by the Modi government. This is a major step and comes in the middle of a battle within the country's top investigating agency.

M Nageswar Rao has taken charge as interim director, and Verma has challenged the government's move in court. Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the step was needed to maintain the CBI's "institutional integrity."

To maintain the integrity of the CBI, purely as an interim measure, they will sit out by going on leave for a while, and an SIT not functioning under either of these two officers will investigate. This is in accordance of highest standards of fairness. - Arun Jaitley, Union Finance Minister

The Supreme Court will hear the CBI director's petition on Friday.

Verma and Asthana have been told not to enter their offices. The team of officers working with Verma have been sent on leave. Their rooms were searched on Wednesday.

The move came after Chief Vigilance Commissioner K V Chowdary recommended that Verma and Asthana be sent on compulsory wait and stripped of all responsibilities.

Verma and Asthana have been locked in a fight that began when the director filed a case against his deputy, accusing him of taking a bribe of Rs three crore from a businessman under investigation. Charges that Asthana denied and in turn accused Verma of taking a Rs two crore bribe from the same businessman.

The Modi government has been criticised for protecting Asthana and other chosen officers'. CPI(M) politburo member Sitaram Yechury has called the transfers are a 'political coup' orchestrated by the government.

The Congress has also accused the Modi government of protecting Asthana, who is a Gujarat cadre officer close to Modi. He was given charge of major investigations.

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