The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has filed a fresh first information report (FIR) against Delhi’s jailed former deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia in connection with the alleged misuse of official position and financial impropriety in the government’s Feedback Unit (FBU) which was also used for collecting ‘political intelligence’, officials said Thursday.
IMAGE: Former Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia. Photograph: PTI Photo
Already arrested by the CBI in the excise policy case and at present in the custody of the Enforcement Directorate, the woes of 51-year-old Sisodia aggravated after the agency booked him and five others on Tuesday for alleged criminal conspiracy, criminal breach of trust, forgery and under provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act, they said.
Along with Sisodia, the agency has named 1992-batch Indian Revenue Service officer Sukesh Kumar Jain who was then secretary of vigilance, retired Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) DIG Rakesh Kumar Sinha who was working as special advisor to Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and joint director in the Feedback Unit, they said.
It has also booked former joint deputy director of Intelligence Bureau Pradeep Kumar Punj, who was working as deputy director of the FBU, retired assistant commandant of CISF Satish Khetrapal who was working as feedback officer, and Gopal Mohan, advisor, anti-corruption, to Kejriwal, officials said.
Reacting to the development, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said, ‘PM’s plan is to slap several false cases against Manish and keep him in custody for a long period. Sad for the country!’
Delhi Bharatiya Janata Party working president Virendra Sachdeva said this is a serious issue and the agency should probe it from the angle of sedition.
“I believe it’s a matter of sedition. Was it that the information of the Feedback Unit was being shared with any foreign power. The agency should also probe if the FBU was getting funds from foreign countries,” he said.
Delhi Congress vice president Ali Mehdi demanded that the accused be booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, saying it was an internal security issue.
He said his party had been raising this issue for the past six months.
There should be a thorough investigation into the Feedback Unit case as people should know what exactly happened when it was functioning, he said.
“We think UAPA should be slapped in this case because it is a matter of internal security. A state government cannot simply have such a snooping unit and it is rather a prerogative of the central government,” he said.
The CBI has alleged that the FBU was ‘willfully created, staffed, funded and incentivised out of public exchequer in an irregular manner’ by Sisodia and other accused officers ‘in violation of rules and regulations and without mandatory approvals’ by abusing their official position.
It has alleged that the unit was created with a dishonest intention to utilise it for purposes other than those for which it was ‘manifestly created’.
FBU officers Sinha, Punj, Khetrapal and advisor Gopal Mohan ‘conspired to misutilse and allow embezzlement of Secret Service Fund besides using staff of FBU for gathering political intelligence’, the FIR has alleged.
The agency has also alleged that the unlawful manner of creation and working of the FBU caused wrongful loss to the government exchequer to the tune of Rs 36 lakh.
The CBI has invoked against the accused IPC sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 403 (dishonest misappropriation of property), 409 (criminal breach of trust by public servant), 468 (forgery), 471 (using as genuine a forged document or electronic record), 477A (falsification of accounts), besides provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
The FBU was set up by the Aam Aadmi Party government in 2015-16 after the party came to power bagging an unprecedented 67 seats out of 70 on anti-corruption plank.
The unit, an ears-to-ground mechanism, was tasked with gathering information and actionable feedback on the working of various Delhi government bodies and to do ‘trap cases’. It was later wound up.
The CBI action is an outcome of a preliminary enquiry which had ‘prima facie disclosed the offences’ against the named accused.
The PE was conducted by the agency on a Delhi government Vigilance Department reference on November 4, 2016.
The enquiry report, a portion of which is now part of the 11-page FIR as a complaint, has alleged that posts for retired employees were created in the unit without nod from the Administrative Reforms Department and the lieutenant governor who is the competent authority.
The agency has cited instances of alleged ‘illegal diversion’ from different heads to the unit for employing 17 retired officials which were ‘non est, null and void’ because they were in violation of rules, guidelines and constitutional provisions.
According to the CBI, 60 per cent of the reports generated by the FBU pertained to vigilance and corruption matters, while ‘political intelligence’ and other issues accounted for around 40 per cent.
It was also revealed that no formal action was taken against any public servant or department based on the Feedback Unit reports, the CBI alleged.