Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, an accused in a disproportionate assets case along with others, on Thursday claimed in Delhi High Court that the way in which the probe was conducted showed an “element of enthusiasm” on CBI’s part indicating an element of “malafide”.
Questioning CBI’s jurisdiction in registering the case here, his counsel told Justice Vipin Sanghi that the court should look into the “ramifications” of the matter as the agency could keep doing its probe which might finish the political career of the Congress leader.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Singh, said as per CBI’s case, all assets alleged to be disproportionate to the known source of income were in Himachal Pradesh and the agency should not have lodged the case in Delhi, on the basis of the fact that his client was then a union minister here.
“The manner in which probe was conducted (by CBI) shows an element of enthusiasm which would not have been there in normal circumstances. That is why a court-monitored mechanism is essential. There is an element of malafide in the matter,” Sibal told the court.
He said it should be ensured that CBI was not biased against anyone based on the political party which is in power in the Centre or the state.
Sibal said CBI had conducted first preliminary enquiry (PE) and thereafter sought to close the case, but later it carried out a second PE on the same set of facts which were dealt with earlier.
He argued that the check period in a DA case “cannot give CBI the jurisdiction to lodged a case here” as jurisdiction would be made out at the place where the offence is alleged to
have been committed.
“There must be a court crafted roadmap in such matters… What will give you (CBI) jurisdiction is the place where an offence is committed,” Sibal said during the arguments which would continue on September 23.
CBI had earlier told the high court that its probe in the DA case against Singh and others was “complete” and it wanted to file the charge sheet in the matter.
The Himachal Pradesh High Court in an interim order on October 1, 2015, had restrained the agency from arresting, interrogating or filing a charge sheet against Singh in the case without court’s permission.
During the hearing today, Sibal also asked how CBI could register a PE without taking any consent of the state.
“This means the CBI will start conducting a PE without anybody’s consent. They should have reported the information received by them to the concerned authority in the state,” he said.
“Court has to look at the ramification of this probe. They (CBI) can keep on doing the investigation….my (Virbhadra’s) political career may be finished,” Sibal said.
To this, the court observed “history has shown that no politician has been indicted due to prosecution.”
Sibal responded saying, “I (Virbhadra) am not saying that I am immune. What prevents the state from investigating me? This is not a case of corruption.”
The matter, in which Himachal Pradesh HC had passed the interim order, was transferred by the Supreme Court to the Delhi High Court, but the interim order has not yet been vacated or stayed.
The Delhi High Court on April 6 this year had directed CBI not to arrest Singh while asking him to join the probe.
The direction had come when the court was disposing of CBI’s application seeking vacation of the Himachal Pradesh High Court order, which, the agency claimed, had “seriously held up” its investigation in the case.
On November 5 last year, the apex court had transferred Singh’s plea from Himachal Pradesh HC to Delhi HC, saying it was not expressing any opinion on the merits of the case, but “simply” transferring the petition “in interest of justice and to save the institution (judiciary) from any embarrassment”.
CBI had moved the apex court seeking transfer of the case to Delhi High Court and setting aside the interim order granting protection from arrest and other relief granted to Singh.
A DA case was lodged against the Chief Minister and others by CBI under sections 13(2) and 13(1)(e) of the Prevention of Corruption Act and section 109 (punishment for abetment) of IPC.