CBI Director Alok Verma on Friday told the Delhi High Court that all mandatory procedures of law were followed while registering an FIR against Special Director Rakesh Asthana on bribery allegations.
Mr Verma's counsel also claimed that the mala fide allegations levelled against him by Mr Asthana in his plea seeking quashing of the FIR were false and hence the petition be dismissed.
Mr Asthana's counsel on the other hand submitted before Justice Najmi Waziri that he was maliciously harassed and there was no evidence against him.
He added that the CBI did not take sanction from the Central government before lodging of the FIR against Mr Asthana as mandated under Section 17A of the Prevention of Corruption (PC) Act.
The court, which heard the arguments for two hours, listed the matter for further hearing on December 20.
Senior advocate Amrendra Sharan, appearing for Asthana, argued that the FIR was antedated and it reached the magistrate 52 hours after registration, whereas, as per law it should be placed before the magistrate within 24 hours.
He contended that there was no allegation of demand and acceptance of illegal gratification against Mr Asthana and he cannot be made an accused for the alleged offence under the PC Act.
CBI counsel DSP Devender Kumar, also an accused in the case, adopted the arguments advanced by Mr Asthana's advocate.
On the issue of prior sanction to prosecute a public servant, senior advocate Amit Sibal, appearing for Mr Verma, argued that Section 17A of the PC Act will never cover the misconduct of accepting bribe by a government official, as alleged in this case.
He added that the statute does not protect a government official for demanding or accepting bribe.
He said seeking or accepting bribe in discharge of official duties by government officials has been castigated in various judgements by the courts.
Mr Verma, in his affidavit filed in response to Asthana's petition, has said that Additional Solicitor General (ASG) P S Narasimha's view was sought by the CBI on the need for prior government approval to lodge an FIR against public servants facing allegations of corruption and he had opined that it was not required.
ASG Maninder Acharya, appearing for the Centre, said that ordinarily it is required to take prior sanction to prosecute a public servant but as this matter was not referred or brought before the government, she cannot say anything.
The court also extended till the next date its interim order directing the CBI to maintain status quo regarding proceedings against Asthana.
Mr Kumar was granted bail on October 31.
Mr Verma has said in the affidavit there was sufficient incriminating documents and evidence against all accused -- Asthana, Kumar and middleman Manoj Prasad -- with the CBI and the FIR was lodged after the PE disclosed cognisable offences.
It has claimed that Mr Asthana's plea is misconceived, premature and not maintainable as investigation in the matter is at a nascent stage.
When Mr Asthana's counsel said the probe agency had not registered a preliminary enquiry before lodging of the FIR, CBI advocate Rajdipa Behura said the CBI manual does not say that PE has to be registered mandatorily and it says that it could be registered.
ASG Vikramjit Banerjee, representing the CBI, said he was not aware of it.
The Supreme Court had reserved judgement on Mr Verma's plea, challenging the Centre's decision to divest him of all powers and sending him on leave.
Mr Kumar, earlier the investigating officer in a case involving meat exporter Moin Qureshi, was arrested on the allegations of forgery in recording the statement of businessman and complainant Sathish Babu Sana who had alleged to have paid bribe to get relief in the case.
Mr Sana had also made allegations of corruption, extortion, high-handedness and serious malpractices against Mr Asthana.
Mr Sana, on whose complaint the FIR was lodged, has also approached the high court seeking to be heard as a party in the matter.
Additional Superintendent of Police S S Gurm has also filed a similar plea in the court to be impleaded as a party. The court is yet to decide both the pleas.
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