Bombay High Court directed Mumbai Police commissioner Arup Patnaik on Wednesday to investigate the alleged disproportionate assets of Mumbai Congress chief Kripashankar Singh and his family members,and prosecute him for criminal misconduct under the Prevention of Corruption Act,1988.
Hours after the ruling,the Congress announced that Singh had quit his post,but said he had sent in his resignation last week in the aftermath of the partys poor showing in the civic elections. The resignation had been accepted,the Congress said.
The court order came in response to a PIL filed by activist Sanjay Tiwari,who had alleged that the Congress MLA and former minister of state for home had amassed wealth disproportionate to his known sources of income. The court rejected a request by Singhs lawyers to stay the order.
Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice Roshan Dalvi noted that Singhs was a rags to riches story. We are astounded to be informed that starting from scratch in the 1970s and at least till 1998 when Respondent no. 9 (Singh) had absolutely no income and nothing is shown by him to have been acquired by him,and he is shown to have earned as MLA a salary of Rs 45,000 per month. He has amassed… more than dozen immovable properties,residential and commercial,several in Mumbai and few outside,only after 2004, the judges said in their order.
The court asked the police commissioner to treat Tiwaris PIL as an FIR. It said that the report of the income,assets and expenditure of Singh and members of his family as stated in the Anti-Corruption Bureaus report of March 3,2011,shall be taken as complete investigation with regard to the enumeration of the assets of the respondents (Singh and his family).
The immovable properties of Respondent no. 9 shall be attached. We do not want to pass any directions regarding the bank accounts of the respondents as it is alleged that the money might have been washed out, the court said. The court asked the commissioner to submit a report by April 19.
Tiwari alleged that between March and November 2009,Rs 60 crore was deposited in the bank accounts of Singhs wife and son. Singhs wife Maltidevi owns 258 acre agricultural land in Ratnagiri worth Rs 25 crore along with the owner of a private security firm, Tiwari said in his affidavit. The land was purchased at the time when Singh was state home minister and had granted 104 arms licences to the security firm as a kickback, the affidavit alleged.
The court observed that the findings in the ACBs report were strikingly similar to Tiwaris petition.
It also noted that Singh and his family members have been stated not to have filed Income Tax returns in various years,interestingly,except the year in which Respondent no. 9 stood for election…
The judges rejected the ACBs claim that the disproportion of Singhs income to his acquisitions is 11.69 per cent and rejected the entries shown by Singh as expenses without documentary evidence.
By no arithmetical calculation can any reasonable or prudent investigator or calculator come to the conclusion that is reflected in the official report of the ACB, the judges said,adding,Such calculation would beat our arithmetic as much as our conscience.
Singh had said Tiwaris PIL was politically motivated and intended to malign him and his family. The court however said there was no vendetta behind the litigation.
We can easily,prima facie,conclude that there is a cognisable offence disclosed, the court said.
Examining various transactions between Singh and his family members,the court said,The receipt by his son and payment to him are mere counter entries and demonstrate only an attempt to create cross-entries,a common feature and attributive of money laundering.
The flats,cash,agricultural land and gold jewellery are,therefore,testimony in support of petitioners contention of ill-gotten wealth.
It is esoteric how expenses of flights are taken to be legitimate deductible expenditure. If flights are taken for official duties,the expenses should be reimbursed by the government, the court said.
Hard for top cop to probe case
The Mumbai Police is in a serious quandary after the HC directed Police Commissioner Arup Patnaik to probe the case against Kripashankar Singh. Sources said Patnaik would be hard-pressed to personally probe such a case as it would require undivided time and attention and a completely different set-up of officers. The police are planning to move the HC to put forward their limitations in executing such an order,sources added.