CBI Feud Enters High Court, Advocates Fight Over Who Represents Agency

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The high court was hearing Rakesh Asthana's petition asking the FIR against him to be quashed

New Delhi:

The tussle within the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) spilled on to the Delhi High Court today with the additional solicitor general and a special public prosecutor both claiming to represent the agency in the bribery case involving special director Rakesh Asthana.

The spat between Additional Solicitor General Vikramjit Banerjee and advocate K Raghavacharyulu erupted when Justice Najmi Waziri began hearing the petitions of Mr Asthana and CBI DSP Devender Kumar, who have sought quashing of the FIR against them in the case.

Mr Banerjee, who came for the first time since the matter came up for hearing in the high court on October 23, said he has been instructed to appear for the CBI.

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Advocate K Raghavacharyulu opposed the Mr Banerjee's appearance and said that he has been appointed by the agency to represent it from the beginning when the petition was filed by Mr Asthana and others.

"I have been appointed as the special public prosecutor in the case," Mr Raghavacharyulu submitted before the court, which did not comment on the issue.

Later, Mr Banerjee said he will seek instructions from the competent authority and make it clear for the high court as to who among the two will appear on behalf of the probe agency.

When the judge later took up a similar petition from middleman Manoj Prasad, the additional solicitor general was not present.

When the court asked where he was, Mr Raghavacharyulu said his instruction was that he has to represent the agency.

The court interjected saying, "He (Mr Banerjee) is also the counsel. If he has instructions to appear in this court, he will appear. Anyway, if he is not here, you proceed."

Speaking to reporters outside the court, Mr Raghavacharyulu said, "There is no confusion. At 2:15 pm also just before the hearing, I confirmed there was no docket by CBI asking the additional solicitor general to appear," he said.

The feud between CBI director Alok Verma and Mr Asthana escalated recently leading to registration of an FIR against Mr Asthana and others including Deputy Superintendent of Police Devender Kumar, who is in the CBI custody in an alleged bribery case.

The CBI had on October 15 registered an FIR against Mr Asthana for allegedly receiving a bribe of Rs. 2 crore from Hyderabad-based businessman Sana Sathish Babu which was given through two middlemen Manoj Prasad and Somesh Prasad to sabotage the probe against meat exporter Moin Qureshi.

On August 24, Rakesh Asthana, in his complaint to the Cabinet Secretary, had levelled allegations against Mr Verma that he got a bribe of Rs 2 crore from Mr Babu to help him get some relief from questioning in the matter.

Last month, the centre sent both Mr Verma and Mr Asthana on leave and appointed M Nageshwar Rao as interim director.

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