New Delhi: A polygraph test conducted on a Hyderabad-based businessman whose complaint led to a corruption case being registered against former CBI special director Rakesh Asthana in 2018 has concluded that his claim of paying a bribe through a businessman for protection appears truthful, according to the Indian Express.
The report says that the lie-detector tests, which were conducted on Satish Babu Sana in March this year, support his claim that he paid a bribe through a businessman for protection in a 2016 case against meat exporter Moin Qureshi.
It is notable that many law-enforcement agencies as well as psychologists around the world consider polygraph tests to be unreliable and often biased against the innocent.
The case against Asthana, registered in October 2018, and the tussle he was engaged in with then-CBI director Alok Verma led to the latter’s ouster by the Narendra Modi government. Asthana was also transferred out of the CBI.
According to reports, polygraph tests were also conducted on Sunil Mittal, father-in-law of alleged middleman Manoj Prasad, and accused Someshwar Srivastava, Prasad’s brother, also in March. A witness in the case, Punit Kharbanda, was also tested in March and April.
The Central Forensic Science Laboratory submitted its assessment and reports on the tests in the third week of April, according to the Indian Express. It concluded that Sana and Kharbanda appear to be truthful about paying money to get a favourable CBI decision. The test reports of Mittal and Srivastava furnished no opinion “because their statements were insufficient, not revealing information about the incident under investigation”.
In January, when the CBI moved the Patiala house court in Delhi seeking consent to conduct polygraph tests, only Manoj Prasad, who is accused of accepting the bribe money, refused. Article 20(3) of the Constitution and Section 161(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure are often cited for protection from self-incrimination.
Asthana’s lawyer Amit Anand Tiwari said he had no knowledge about the polygraph test. “I didn’t deal with the trial court matter at any stage. But the issue (polygraph test) never came up in any of the hearings in the High Court. They (CBI) have submitted a status report (to court) but I do not know the contents of the said report,” he told the Indian Express.
The Delhi high court on October 9 asked the CBI to complete its investigation into the matter within two months. This was the second extension that the court gave, after initially asking the agency to complete the probe within ten weeks in January.
According to reports, the CBI has concluded a major part of the investigation and is awaiting replies to letters rogatory (LRs) sent to the US and UAE.
The case against Asthana
Asthana is accused of criminal conspiracy, corruption and criminal misconduct under sections of Prevention of Corruption Act. The case against him was registered in October 2018 after Sana alleged that he paid a bribe through Manoj Prasad to get relief in a case based on an FIR lodged by the CBI against meat exporter Moin Qureshi and others. In the Qureshi matter, which was being investigated by Asthana, officials were accused of collecting bribes to dilute the case.
After the CBI registered a case against Asthana under Alok Verma’s directive, the former accused the then-CBI director of corruption. As the tussle escalated, the Centre, in an unprecedented midnight order, removed both Verma and Asthana from their respective positions.
Verma declined the punishment posting of director-general of fire services, civil defence and home guards and resigned from the IPS. Asthana was transferred to the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security.
In late September, The Wire exclusively reported that the entire CBI team probing allegations against Asthana had been purged and that the former special director is likely to be absolved of all corruption charges. An Indian Express report later confirmed the speculation after sources told the newspaper that “after almost a year of investigation under multiple officers, the CBI has concluded there is no evidence to prove that any bribe was ever demanded by or paid to Asthana.”