PTI, NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court on Monday directed the CBI to maintain status quo till November 1 on the criminal proceedings initiated against its Special Director Rakesh Asthana, who has challenged the FIR lodged against him on bribery allegations.
Justice Najmi Waziri questioned the CBI for not filing its response to the petitions of Asthana and the agency's Deputy Superintendent of Police Devender Kumar, who has been in CBI custody since October 23.
The high court, in last hearing on October 23, had asked CBI to file its response by today. It had ordered the agency to maintain status quo on the proceedings against Asthana.
When CBI's Special Prosecutor K Raghavacharyulu prayed for a "little" more time to file its reply, the court asked as to why it has not been done yet.
"You took three days time the other day (October 23). This court was taking up the matter the next date itself, but you took time. What do you mean by little more time, please explain," the judge said.
The high court directed the CBI to file reply on the pleas of Asthana and Kumar on or before October 31 and listed the matter for hearing on November 1.
The CBI prosecutor told the high court that delay in filing of reply occurred as the case files have been sent to Central Vigilance Commission (CVC).
The court was hearing three separate pleas of Asthana, Kumar and a middleman Manoj Prasad, seeking quashing of the FIR lodged against them by the CBI on bribery allegations.
Kumar, whose 7-day CBI custody is expiring tomorrow, moved a trial court on Monday seeking bail in the case. The plea would be heard on Tuesday.
Prasad's plea seeking quashing of FIR and staying the investigation was also heard on Monday by the high court which observed that his case was on a different footing from that of Asthana and Kumar.
The court said Prasad was a private person while Asthana and Kumar were public servants and nothing stops the CBI from probing a private individual. The court will continue hearing his plea tomorrow.
The CBI counsel at the outset placed before the high court the October 26 order of the Supreme Court in which it has directed the CVC to complete in two weeks inquiry against CBI Director Alok Kumar Verma, who has been divested of his duties and sent on leave in view of the feud between him and Asthana.
Asthana has also been sent on leave along with Verma since October 24.
The apex court had also issued notices to the Centre and CVC seeking their response on Verma's plea which has challenged the government's decision to divest him of his powers and prayed for a stay on the Centre's order giving interim charge of his post to Rao, a 1986 batch Odisha-cadre IPS officer.
However, the high court said that as far as this court was concerned, there was no whisper of the matters pending before it in the apex court's order.
Senior advocate Siddharth Luthra, appearing for Prasad, also said the challenge to the FIR before it was different from the subject matter of the apex court order.
Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Maninder Acharya, appearing for DoPT, also said that the Supreme Court was seized of the matter and Asthana has also filed a petition there.
The judge asked "has notice been issued in the petition before the Supreme Court?"
When senior advocate Amrendra Sharan, representing Asthana, said the entire case and petition here and before the apex court was different and no notice was issued by the top court on it, the high court judge said, "so, this matter is not before the Supreme Court".
Sharan was referring to the separate petition filed by Asthana before the Supreme Court in which he has claimed himself as the whistle-blower and has sought stay of the order sending him on leave. His petition in the apex court was not heard on October 26 by a bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi.
In the matter pending before the high court, Justice Waziri sought to know the reason for delay in filing the response and asked CBI whether the Supreme Court order says no further probe?
"It is your FIR. It is up to you to file reply or not. Don't leave it to me, you tell me how much time you want," the judge said.
CBI's counsel said a fair and impartial investigation was required in the matter and he needed time to be briefed as no CBI officers have come to him.
Senior advocate Dayan Krishnan, appearing for Kumar, said his client was in custody and every moment of illegal custody was violation of his right to protection of life and liberty.