In a dramatic development on Thursday, four Intelligence Bureau (IB) personnel were caught by the security staff of CBI Director Alok Verma outside his residence in the heart of Delhi, prompting the IB to say the men were on “routine patrol”.
The security staff of Verma, who was stripped of his powers post midnight Tuesday, caught hold of the IB personnel who were seated in two parked cars outside the CBI Director’s Janpath residence and dragged them into his house.
Each IB operative was caught by at least two of Verma’s guards — in one case one man was held by his collar — and taken into Verma’s bungalow and asked to reveal their identity.
The men had been seen in their cars since Wednesday night, raising suspicion that they were spying on Verma.
The CBI chief had earlier been sent “on leave” by the government after a high-profile spat with CBI Special Director Rakesh Asthana, who too has been sent on leave.
As a video showing the men being dragged by Verma’s security officers went viral, the IB admitted that the men were its operatives.
“The IB is entrusted with the responsibility of collecting intelligence on situations that may affect, inter alia, public order and internal security. Its units are routinely deployed on a regular basis in sensitive areas,” the normally reticent IB said in a statement.
“One such unit, in early hours of today (Thursday), halted on Janpath, where there was an unusual collection of people. This was with a view to check the reason why people had collected at the location… This is a high security zone. Unfortunately, their presence was projected otherwise,” the statement said.
The four men were handed over to Delhi Police and they identified themselves as Dheeraj Kumar, Ajay Kumar, Prashant Kumar and Vineet Kumar Gupta.
Dheeraj Kumar and Ajay Kumar told the police they were junior IB officers while the other two claimed to be seniors in the Bureau.
Identity cards and several mobile phones were recovered from their possession.
Verma and his deputy Asthana were divested of their duties on Tuesday night amid an unprecedented feud in the agency as the two hit out at each other over bribery accusations.
The Congress accused the Modi government of indulging in “snooping and spying” and of using central agencies in a “blatant and brazen” manner.
“Making the agencies dance to their tune by use of brute force, extortion and murky dealings is the real character of the BJP,” Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi said.
“There is unimpeachable evidence on camera of at least four officers, belonging to IB, were thwarted at the gates of concerned people who was sent on leave. They are worried about skeletons coming out of the closet,” he said.
“Today, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his government and the President of the ruling party (Amit Shah) were indulging in blatant and shameless surveillance on CBI and have created a fresh new snoopgate.
“This was nothing but blatant, brazen and beleaguered use of agencies. It also speaks volumes how the IB was being interfered and misused for cheap political end.”