The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has been shying away from investigating a case of alleged disproportionate assets involving a former Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) chief despite a court order. The case, spanning 22 years, has now gone to the Supreme Court which will decide whether the court order should be executed or quashed. The order, issued by a special CBI court, called for a CBI investigation into the assets of a RAW chief, allegedly purchased from the agency’s secret fund.

The case came to light when former RAW officer R.K. Yadav filed a complaint in a Delhi court in February 1996, seeking inquiry into the alleged disproportionate assets held by former RAW chief A.K. Verma. Verma, who had retired in May 1990, passed away in September 2016. Yadav made Verma’s son, Deepak, a respondent because as per the documents obtained by Yadav, bank accounts operated by Deepak were allegedly used to buy properties across Delhi-National Capital Region. Verma had dismissed the allegations during his lifetime, claiming that these properties belonged to his wife, who belonged to a rich family, and his son. Interestingly, Yadav’s own track record was dubious as he was dismissed from service in 1989, after having joined RAW in the 1970s.

However, the said case, filed by Yadav, was dismissed by the Delhi court in July 1996 and subsequently the appeal too was dismissed by the Delhi High Court in October 1999.

Following this, Yadav filed a complaint with the CBI and then the Central Vigilance Commission detailing all the properties (more than eight in total, including flats and farmhouses, and valued at more than Rs 100 core, as per the affidavit filed by Yadav in court) allegedly bought by Verma whose last drawn salary was a meagre Rs 3,000 per month.

“The then CBI director, R.K. Raghavan and the Chief Vigilance Commissioner, N. Vittal, after going through the documents that were gathered by me and meeting me individually, were convinced that it was a case of absolute misuse of power and possession of assets disproportionate to known sources of income. Initially, they showed some interest but later everything went cold. The CBI IO (investigating officer), who was working on the case diligently, was transferred. Then in 2008 I filed an RTI reply with the CBI seeking details of the case. In its reply, the CBI said that the case file was untraceable and they did not consider the case worthwhile to be inquired as Verma had retired,” Yadav told The Sunday Guardian.

Later, Yadav moved the Special CBI court in October 2009. The court in September 2010 said: “CBI is not supposed to lose track of the file after initiating investigation. It goes to indicate that things are not above board. I, therefore, call upon the complainant to establish his case by leading evidence that the accused possessed properties disproportionate to their known source of income”—thereby asking Yadav to present witnesses in support of his prayer.

Later, after going through the process which included examination of 13 witnesses, the CBI special court in its judgement in February 2013 called for a CBI inquiry into the assets owned by the accused and his family. It said: “I, therefore, call upon the SP, CBI to depute a senior officer to carry out investigation regarding ownership and value of the properties mentioned above which allegedly are owned by the accused and his family”.

“However, rather than acting on the decision by its own court, the agency moved the High Court seeking quashing of this order. The High Court ruled in the CBI’s favour in December 2015. Now I have moved the Supreme Court seeking the restoration of the order of the Special CBI court that had called for a CBI inquiry into the assets that were allegedly bought by Verma from the RAW’s secret fund. From 1977 to 1990, when Verma served in the RAW, he would not have been able to earn more than Rs 6 lakh as total salary in all those years, as has been proved beyond doubt in the CBI court, but the assets and properties owned by him in 1990s were worth more than Rs 100 crore. The legendary R.N. Kao (the first director of RAW) was able to build one house in his entire career after procuring a loan. I remember meeting him once after he had retired. He had told me that how difficult it was for him to manage Rs 25,000 which he needed to plant a bore-well in his house. This petition is not about Verma or any individual, it is about accountability surrounding the funds used by the secret agencies. Every country, be it UK or US, has a system where the head of the spy agency is answerable to someone for the funds under his disposal,” Yadav said. The Supreme Court will hear the case on 8 October.