The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Hyderabad Police to provide adequate security to businessman Sathish Babu Sana, who has claimed the threat to his life for filing a complaint in the alleged bribery case against CBI special director Rakesh Asthana.
The apex court, however, did not accept his plea to stay the CBI’s summon against him.
It also rejected his plea for a recording of his statement before the probe in the presence of retired former SC judge A K Patnaik, who has been appointed by the court to supervise the CVC probe against CBI director Alok Kumar Verma.
A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices U U Lalit and K M Joseph noted that Sana, who claims to be “whistleblower”, has expressed an apprehension of danger/threat to his life and wellbeing.
“Having considered the matter, we are of the view that all concerned authorities, particularly, the Commissioner/Superintendent of Police, Hyderabad shall afford to the applicant-Sathish Babu Sana all such protection/security etc. As would be necessary to safeguard the life of the applicant,” the bench said.
The bench also took note of a fresh petition filed by CBI DSP A K Bassi, who was earlier the investigating officer in the case lodged against Asthana.
Bassi challenged his transfer to Port Blair in Andaman and Nicobar Islands instituted after M Nageswara Rao, joint director in the CBI took over the charge as interim head of the agency.
Bassi, in his plea filed through advocate Sunil Fernandes, said his transfer to Andaman and Nicobar Islands on October 24 is “malafide and derails a sensitive probe” and added that allegations against Asthana are “grave”.
He sought that his petition be heard on Friday but the bench said: “it will look into it”.
Hours after the development in the apex court, CBI DSP Devendra Kumar, who was arrested by the team led by Bassi, was produced before a trial court on expiry of his seven-days custodial interrogation.
Kumar accused the CBI of tampering with and fabricating evidence against him and contended that a case of theft and extortion be registered against the sleuths probing the case of bribery against him and Asthana.
Special CBI Judge Santosh Snehi Mann, send him and alleged middlemen in the case Manoj Prasad to 14-days judicial custody after the CBI said they were no more required for custodial interrogation.
Prasad was arrested by the CBI on October 17 and has also challenged the registration of FIR against him and subsequent arrest before the Delhi High Court, which on Tuesday posted the matter for hearing on November 1, as his counsel was not available.
The hearing on the CBI’s saga on Tuesday first came before the apex court where senior advocate Raju Ramachandran, appearing for Sana, said the businessman needed protection as there is a threat to his life.
The bench said that if there was any threat to his life it will do the necessary. “We will say here is a citizen who claims to be a whistleblower and fears for his life. And he should be given adequate security.”
Ramachandran said a fresh summons of CBI and the change of Investigation Officer (IO) in the case would complicate the task of Justice (retired) Patnaik, who is supervising the probe by Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) into charges against CBI director Alok Verma.
To this, the bench said, “Let the task of supervision be handled by Justice Patnaik. He will do whatever is required.”
The bench thereafter dictated the order and said adequate security should be provided by Hyderabad Police SP to the petitioner (Sana) and rejected the other two prayers to stay CBI summon and recording of his statement in presence of Justice (retd) Patnaik.
The CBI had booked Asthana on October 15 on the basis of a complaint from Sana, facing probe in a 2017 case involving meat exporter Moin Qureshi, claiming that the special director had allegedly helped him to get a clean chit from the probe agency.
Besides seeking a stay on CBI’s summons against him, Sana in his petition had expressed fear for his life and sought police protection during the pendency of the inquiry against Asthana, who alongside CBI Director Alok Verma has been divested of duties and sent on leave by the Central government.
The businessman, in his plea, had referred to the apex court’s October 26 order on the petition of the CBI Director by which the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) was asked to conclude inquiry against Verma within two weeks under the supervision of former apex court judge Patnaik.
The feud between Verma and Asthana escalated recently leading to registration of an FIR against Asthana and others including Kumar, who is in the CBI custody in an alleged bribery case.
The FIR was lodged on a written complaint of Sana on October 15. It alleged that Kumar, the investigating officer (IO) in a case, was repeatedly calling him to the CBI office to harass and compel him to pay the bribe of Rs 5 crore for giving him a clean chit. PTI