- Rakesh Asthana's tenure curtailed with immediate effect
- The tenures of 3 more officers have also been curtailed
- A special panel will pick a new CBI chief on January 24
Rakesh Asthana, number 2 to former CBI chief Alok Verma, was moved out of the premier investigating agency on Thursday, just a week after the removal of his boss. The unprecedented public rivalry between the officers -- involving tit-for-tat corruption allegations and a bribery case against Mr Asthana -- had engulfed the country's premier investigating agency in a huge controversy over the last months.
Several other members of Mr Verma's team, including AK Sharma and Manish Sinha, have also been moved out. Sources said the churn is meant to clear the decks for the appointment of a new chief. A special panel led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi will meet on January 24 to pick Mr Verma's successor.
The termination of Mr Asthana's tenure came years ahead of time -- the usual stint at CBI is of seven years. Mr Asthana, who was elevated to the CBI amid controversial circumstances after the NDA came to power, has been moved to the high-profile Bureau of Civil Aviation Security despite a criminal case against him.
Mr Verma had initially opposed the elevation of Mr Asthana -- a Gujarat officer whom Congress chief Rahul Gandhi had dubbed "the PM's blue-eyed boy".
The tension between the two officers peaked after Mr Verma's team filed a police case against Mr Asthana, accusing him of taking bribes from a businessman on the agency's radar. In October, both were sent on forced leave as the Prime Minister intervened in the massive infighting that made headlines for several days.
In letters to the government, Mr Asthana alleged that it was his boss who took bribes and framed him. When the police case was filed, he retaliated by taking the CBI to court and requested that the case against him be cancelled. After the Delhi High Court rejected his appeal, Mr Asthana had appealed for a correction in the judgment.
Mr Verma's removal from the top post last week created a political storm.
The decision of the special panel led by PM Modi was based on a report by the anti-corruption watchdog Central Vigilance Commission on the allegations against the officer. Congress's Mallikarjun Kharge, who was part of the panel, had given a dissenting view, citing that the allegations against Mr Verma was unsubstantiated.
Mr Verma claimed he was transferred on basis of "false, unsubstantiated and frivolous allegations" made by a person "inimical to him". The officer, who was retiring by the end of this month, quit a day later, refusing to take charge as the Chief of Fire Services.