In the latest development in the ongoing spat at the Central Bureau of Investigation, Director Alok Verma and Special Director Rakesh Asthana have been “divested of all powers” and Joint Director M. Nageshwara Rao has been put in-charge with immediate effect.

Who is the interim Director?

Mannem Nageshwara Rao, the Joint Director of CBI, is a 1986 batch Indian Police Service officer from the Odisha cadre. Hailing from Telangana’s Warangal district, Mr. Rao was earlier posted in South Zone, Chennai. On May 3, he took charge as the Additional Director in the CBI headquarters and was looking after the Chandigarh unit. Mr. Rao will “look after duties and functions of Director CBI” and shall take over the role with immediate effect, said the government order by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet. The CBI Director usually has a fixed tenure of two years.

What led to this?

Earlier reports had suggested that Mr. Asthana could be asked to go on leavefollowing charges of corruption and falsification of records. The CBI had named its second-in-command as an accused in a bribery case, along with Deputy Superintendent of Police Devender Kumar and two private persons. The agency said that more than ₹3 crore in bribes were paid by the complainant for getting relief in a case against meat exporter Moin Qureshi and others. The FIR filed by the CBI against one of its own was an indication of the escalating turf war between the top officials in the agency. Prior to this, Mr. Asthana filed a complaint against the Director Mr. Verma , accusing him of interfering in a corruption case involving family members of RJD leader Lalu Prasad Yadav. The agency had denied the charges against the Director and said that Mr. Asthana was under probe in half-a-dozen cases and was trying to intimidate officials probing his role. According to top officials, Mr. Verma had briefed the Prime Minister with all the details regarding the bribery case and subsequently, the Prime Minister asked him to meet and brief National Security Adviser Ajit Doval. Asked whether the Prime Minister or the NSA said anything during the meeting, an official said: “Both are concerned about the government’s image getting tarnished in the matter. The NSA asked the Director to lie low and ensure that the government’s image is not damaged in the process.” The official denied that the Prime Minister and the NSA “gave any instruction regarding the case.”

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