The war within the country's top investigating agency - Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) - reached the courtroom on Tuesday with Special Director Rakesh Asthana approaching the Delhi High Court urging it to prevent any coercive action against him.
The high court directed the CBI to maintain status quo on the criminal proceedings initiated against Asthana till October 29 when it hears the case next.
However, sources within the CBI said that the agency may soon question Asthana in connection with alleged bribery to give relief to a businessman who was being probed in a case involving Moin Qureshi. Questioning of an accused does not come in the definition of coercive action which Asthana had sought to be stopped, sources said.
CBI's DSP Devender Kumar suspended
In a related development, the CBI suspended DSP Devender Kumar, who has been arrested in connection with bribery allegations involving Rakesh Asthana. Kumar has been sent to seven days of the agency's custody for interrogation as the CBI added fresh charges of extortion and forgery to the FIR.
Terming the offence as "grave", special CBI Judge Santosh Snehi Mann said "considering the gravity of the offence and seriousness of allegations about the involvement of public servants including accused, I am of the opinion the police custody of accused Devender Kumar is necessary for proper investigation.
Opposition gets ammunition to target Modi Govt
The CBI war occupied centrestage in the briefings and tweets of the opposition parties who lashed out at the Centre for failing to take control of the situation.
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala claimed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is responsible for "dismantling, denigrating and destroying" CBI and accused him of direct interference in the functioning of the CBI.
There was no immediate reaction from the Prime Minister's Office(PMO) to the allegations.
Surjewala also accused the Centre of eroding the independence and credibility of institutions like the CBI, ED and others.
CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury alleged the BJP was damaging and destroying the country's institutions and in a series of tweets, he said the BJP's "nefarious" design needed to be defeated.
NCP Chief Sharad Pawar said if the present government was effective, there would not have been bribery charges at the highest level in the CBI. "He(the prime minister) should act," he said in Mumbai.
What is the case
The case emanates from a statement recorded by a Hyderabad-based real estate agent Sathish Sana whose role was being investigated by a team led by Asthana in a bribery case allegedly involving meat exporter Moin Qureshi.
It was alleged that Sana had paid Rs 50 lakh as bribe to Qureshi, which was shown as investment in his company, to get relief in a bribery case.
A Special Investigation Team led by Rakesh Asthana was probing the matter and was repeatedly questioning Sana in this regard as it suspected him of lying in the matter.
A lookout notice was also issued against him by the investigation which prevented him from leaving the country on September 25, 2018, Sana had said in his statement which is part of the FIR.
The team also submitted a proposal to arrest him as it felt the need for custodial interrogation on October 20, 2018 before the director which was not cleared and sent for the opinion of Directorate of Prosecution.
Asthana in his complaint to the Cabinet Secretary on August 24 had alleged that CBI Director Alok Verma had received a bribe of Rs 2 crore from Sana to help him get relief from repeated questioning.
He had also alleged that Verma had called him over phone in February to not call Sana for questioning.
In a surprising and unprecedented move on October 15, the CBI booked Asthana and investigation officer of the case on the charges for receiving bribe from Sana through middlemen Manoj Prasad and Somesh Prasad.
The CBI also arrested Devender Kumar, the DSP and investigation officer, alleging that he had fabricated the statement of Sana purportedly claiming that a Rajya Sabha MP had met Verma on his pending case and assured him of relief and a clean chit.
WATCH: CBI war reaches courtroom
(With inputs from PTI)