Government Approval not Needed to Lodge FIR Against Asthana, Says CBI Director Verma

Prior sanction is not required when an investigation is already underway and when a cognisable offence comes to the notice of a law enforcement agency.

New Delhi: CBI director Alok Verma on Friday told the Delhi high court that a senior law officer had suggested to the agency that prior government approval was not needed before lodging an FIR against special director Rakesh Asthana.

In response to Asthana’s plea challenging the FIR, Verma 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. Narasimha opined that it was not required.

According to the affidavit, the ASG clarified that prior sanction to lodge an FIR is not required when an investigation is already underway and when a cognisable offence comes to the notice of a law enforcement agency.

The affidavit said the ASG “opined that there is no need for obtaining any sanction or approval of competent authority under section 17A of Prevention of Corruption (PC) Act if an enquiry or investigation has already commenced on the date section 17A came into force”.

It also said that the ASG had “advised that whenever a cognizable offence comes to the notice of law enforcement agency, the FIR or preliminary enquiry (PE) must be registered and it should not await prior approval under section 17A”.

One of the grounds used by Asthana in his plea seeking quashing of the FIR was that no prior approval of the central government was taken before it was registered.

Verma has contended that in the instant matter, there were sufficient incriminating documents and evidence against all accused – Asthana, DSP Devender Kumar and middleman Manoj Prasad – with CBI and that the FIR was lodged after the PE disclosed cognisable offences.

Earlier, the CBI, in its reply to the pleas of Asthana and Kumar seeking quashing of the FIR, had said allegations against them and others show cognisable offences.

While Kumar is out on bail at present, the high court since October 23 has been directing CBI to maintain status quo regarding proceedings against Asthana.

Verma’s affidavit also claims that Asthana’s plea is misconceived, premature and not maintainable as investigation since the matter is at a nascent stage.

It is well established that courts should not interfere in investigations, more so in cases where cognisable offences are disclosed.

Kumar, earlier the investigating officer in a case involving meat exporter Moin Qureshi, was arrested on allegations of forgery in recording the statement of businessman Sathish Babu Sana who was alleged to have paid bribes for relief in the case.

The FIR against Asthana was lodged on a complaint by Sana alleging corruption, extortion, high handedness and serious malpractices against him, the affidavit said.

The high court on November 28 allowed Verma and joint director A.K. Sharma to inspect the case file relating to the FIR against Asthana in the CVC’s office .

Verma, in his reply, has sought the court’s permission to file another response after going through the files in the CVC office.

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