CBI Director Alok Verma’s justification for going slow in IRCTC case: Political fallout, law and order problem

Alok Verma says a raid on residences of Lalu Prasad Yadav and his family members could have created law and order problem

Ever since the dispute between two top officers in Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), director Alok Verma and Special Director Rakesh Asthana, came to light, the opposition, activists and a section are openly taking the side of Verma. Although both have levelled serious allegations against each other, Verma’s supporters have decided to ignore allegations against him and are trying to project him as a victim. As a part of that, left-wing propaganda website The Wire has been extensively covering Verma’s version of the events.

On 17th November, they published a report on Verma’s response to CVC, and on 18th, they published another report covering one aspect of the response in detail, and IRCTC case. Rakesh Asthana has been alleging that the CBI director was going slow in the case.

The IRCTC Hotel tendering case relates to alleged irregularities in awarding the contracts of two IRCTC hotels in Ranchi and Puri to a private company in return for a prime commercial plot in Patna. This happened in 2005-2006, when Lalu Prasad Yadav was union railway minister in UPA I government. The two hotels originally belonged to Indian Railways, which was transferred to IRCTC in 2005. At the same time, Sujata Hotels sold a plot of 3 acres worth ₹94 crore for just ₹1.47 crore to Delight Marketing Company Pvt. Ltd. In 2006, Sujata Hotels won the bid for both the hotels, after a change in bidding norms so that the company qualifies for bidding. In the year 2009, all the shares of Delight Marketing was transferred to Rabri Devi and Tejaswi Yadav, wife and younger son of Lalu Yadav, for mere ₹64 lakh.

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In April this year, CBI had filed FIR in the case, after registering the case last year. In the FIR, Lalu Prasad Yadav was named as one of the accused. CBI special director Rakesh Asthana has been accusing that CBI director Alok Verma was trying to scuttle the case, in an alleged bid to protect Lalu Prasad Yadav.

Going by The Wire report on Verma’s version, it is clear that Alok Verma is actually not denying the fact that he was delaying the case. He has offered some justifications for the same, which are actually quite bizarre for a premier investigation agency like CBI. Verma says he was worried about the political fallout of the case. Now, in any high profile corruption case involving political leaders, there will be political implications. If a politician is caught in a scam, the opposition parties will gain. That is a natural side effect in such cases. CBI should concentrate on the investigation of the cases, not the political fallouts of the same.

Verma says that the case also had a “political angle”, and it was a politically sensitive case. He also justified his action saying there was a possibility of law and order problems in Bihar. He says that he feared that law and order problems could arise as a result of the agency’s searches at deputy chief minister Tejashwi Yadav’s residence and the houses of two former chief ministers Lalu Yadav and Rabri Devi.

This is one of the most bizarre justifications coming from a CBI director. Why should CBI not proceed with an investigation fearing law and order problem? CBI’s job is to do investigations and follow the due process, not worry about things not under its jurisdiction. The government, and state and central police forces are responsible for enforcing law and order, that should not be a subject CBI to worry about.

This argument raises some very serious questions. In how many other cases against powerful politicians the agency is going slow fearing violence? Was the agency threatened with violence if the investigation against Lalu Yadav and his family proceeds ahead? The justification given by Verma can also give a new tool to powerful and corrupt politicians, now they can threaten violence and law & order situation if the agency starts any probe on them.

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