- Rakesh Asthana has been sent on forced leave by the central government
- It is unclear who will represent CBI at Vijay Mallya case hearing in UK
- Sources say, CBI officers have stopped taking decisions on pending cases
A London court will announce its decision on fugitive liquor baron Vijay Mallya's extradition on December 10, but with CBI Special Director Rakesh Asthana sent on forced leave by the central government, it's still unclear who will represent the agency at the hearing.
But the Mallya case is not the only one that the investigative agency seems clueless about. According to sources, officers have stopped taking decisions on pending cases in the wake of the bureaucratic bloodbath that followed Mr Asthana's public tiff with CBI chief Alok Verma. "As most officers are unwilling to take on new responsibilities in such a scenario, they are not putting anything on file. Many cases are suffering because of this," a senior CBI officer said on the condition of anonymity.
Interpol sought some clarifications from the CBI in a case against another fugitive businessman, Mehul Choksi, but the investigation agency was reportedly unable to comply for this very reason. "Choksi raised some concerns about the poor prison conditions in India and certain alleged anomalies in the case against him, but the CBI simply did not respond," the officer disclosed.
The CBI has also not taken Deepak Kulkarni, an associate of Mr Choksi, into custody because of its reluctance to initiate action in such a sensitive case. Incidentally, the fugitive businessman had sued the Antiguan government a few days ago for examining an extradition petition from India. The hearing in the case is scheduled for November 14.
Sources in the CBI concede that its decision-making system has received a big blow due to the controversy, with seniors fearful of contradicting juniors and vice versa. "Work in many important cases is suffering. Approvals are pending," explained another senior officer.
The probe into the Muzzafarpur case, which concerned the sexual exploitation of minors at a government-aided shelter, has also been affected. "Although the agency recently recovered a skull and some bones from a cremation ground near the shelter home, it is yet to constitute a team of medical and forensic experts to check if they belong to a girl who went missing," the officer said.
The registration rate of cases has plummeted too, with only seven minor ones being filed since October 22. Earlier, the agency used to register at least 36 cases a month.
Lack of functional staffers is cited as a major cause for this logjam. Besides the director and special director, who have both been sent on leave, three additional directors -- including acting director Nageshwar Rao -- have been forbidden from taking any policy decisions by the Supreme Court. "The director of prosecution's post will get vacant on December 23, and we have to pick a new one before that. The process, although initiated, has taken a hit in the absence of a functional head," the officer said.
According to a running joke, the CBI fell into bad times after moving into the new building built on an erstwhile cremation ground. "Four of our seniors are in trouble due to a single case," said another officer. "It's Sudhi puja, not an art of living course, that we need conducted on the premises. Nothing less than divine intervention can save the CBI now."
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