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Monday, November 30, 2020

Uttarakhand CM moves SC against HC order for CBI probe into graft allegations

The high court verdict came on two separate petitions filed by two journalists--Umesh Sharma and Shiv Prasad Semwal -- seeking quashing of FIR lodged against them in July this year under various provisions of the IPC.

Written by Lalmani Verma | Dehradun | Updated: October 29, 2020 1:28:03 am
trivendra singh rawat, sc stays hc order, cbi probe on trivendra singh rawat, uttarakhand cm cbi probe, indian expressUttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat on Wednesday moved the Supreme Court against Nainital High Court’s direction to the CBI to probe into allegations of graft made by a journalist in a video, accusing Rawat of allegedly getting money transferred to accounts of his “relatives” in 2016 to back the appointment of a person in Jharkhand to head the state’s Gau Seva Ayog.

Rawat was at the time BJP’s Jharkhand in-charge.

On Wednesday, Opposition Congress in the state demanded Rawat’s resignation, while ruling BJP called the HC judgment “bad in law”.

Rawat filed a special leave petition against the HC order. His lawyer, Divyam Agarwal, has not yet divulged the grounds of the challenge, PTI reported from New Delhi.

While ordering a CBI probe into allegations against the CM, the HC bench of Justice Ravindra Maithani had on Tuesday also ordered quashing of the FIR against the journalist, Umesh Kumar Sharma.

The HC order came while hearing separate criminal writ petitions filed by two journalists – Sharma and Shiv Prasad Semwal – who had sought quashing of an FIR lodged against them in Dehradun in July this year under different IPC sections. The FIR was lodged after a retired professor, Harinder Singh Rawat, approached the police with a complaint against a video Umesh had uploaded on Facebook in June, making the accusations against Rawat.

Seeking the CM’s resignation “on moral grounds”, former CM and senior Congress leader Harish Rawat on Wednesday told The Indian Express: “The court has found the allegations to be of serious nature. Once an FIR is registered by CBI, the CM will be left with only option – that of resignation. There are instances of ministers’ resignations in such matters in the past.”

He said that in keeping with its claims of zero tolerance towards corruption, the BJP central leadership should direct Trivendra Rawat to resign in the interest of a fair probe.

The opposition party on Wednesday also sought an appointment with the Governor to convey the same demand for the CM’s resignation. “Since the Governor did not give us time for a meeting, party leaders will take out a march to Raj Bhavan on Thursday,” state Congress vice-president Suryakant Dhasmana said.

Aam Aadmi Party spokesperson Uma Sisodia said the Prime Minister should remove him from the post if Rawat does not resigns himself.

But rejecting the Opposition’s demand, and accusing the Congress of politicising the HC judgment, BJP spokesperson Munna Singh Chauhan told the media, “We respect the court but we are not satisfied with the decision of quashing the FIR (lodged against Umesh Sharma and others). We call it bad in law.”

He said, “To rectify this mistake of law, a SLP has been filed in Supreme against this (HC) judgment.”

Chauhan also said the CM was never issued any notice in the matter, that he was not made party (to the case), and that he was never heard before the probe was ordered (by HC).

He said Umesh had earlier alleged that complainant Harender’s wife is related to the CM, and that money was transferred into certain bank accounts, but later Umesh admitted in court that Harender and his wife were not related to Rawat. “When the person has admitted before the court that he gave wrong information, then is it legally appropriate to make baseless allegations with motive to malign the CM’s image? That is why I said this judgment is bad in law. The complainant (Umesh) himself admitted that he shared wrong information.”

Umesh on Wednesday reiterated, “The allegations I made in the video are true and I have shown documents of the bank accounts.”

Chauhan quoted a para of the HC order, which states, “WhatsApp messages and conversation can not definitely be relied upon at this stage to make any inference. At the cost of repetition, it may be stated that the petitioner (Umesh) admitted that the amount was not deposited in the account of the informant (Harender) or his family members. But the money was deposited in some other accounts. The argument is that even if wife of the informant is not a relative of TSRCM, it does not make out any offence.”

TSRCM refers to CM T S Rawat.

The BJP also questioned Umesh’s credibility, with Chauhan pointing out that more than two dozen cases of various natures, including heinous crimes, are lodged against him in five states: UP, Uttarakhand, Delhi, West Bengal, and Jharkhand.

The BJP leader said that Umesh had listed 17 bank accounts in the petition and claimed that 10 accounts were related to Harender and his establishments, and one related to another relative of the CM. “The petitioner (Umesh) later admitted that that no monetary transaction was made in these 11 accounts, which was found in the inquiry as well. The other account-holders are unknown to the CM,” Chauhan said.

The allegations against CM Rawat and the FIR lodged against Umesh Sharma were in connection with a video the journalist had put up on social media, in which he had alleged that Harender’s wife is related to the CM, and that during demonetisation in 2016 a man named Amratesh Singh Chauhan had deposited money in different accounts – belonging to Harender and his wife – allegedly as bribe meant for Rawat to get Chauhan appointed chairperson of the gau seva panel.

Harender had rejected allegations that his family is related to the CM, and stated in the complaint that Umesh, in his video, showed fabricated documents relating to cash deposits in bank accounts.

The police also included the charge of sedition in the FIR, Umesh said.

On Wednesday, the BJP leader said that Harender has no family relation with CM Rawat and was OSD to Rawat when he was the state Agriculture minister in a BJP government in the past.

In the video posted in June this year, Umesh Sharma had alleged that Rawat had purportedly fixed a deal of Rs 50 lakh to get Amratesh Chauhan appointed as chairperson of the Gau Seva Ayog in Jharkhand. The video also showed screenshots of Whatsapp communication, purportedly between one “Rawat Jee BJP” and Amratesh, in which a list of bank accounts, names of account holders, including that of Harender and others, were shared on information about alleged cash deposit.

Umesh has presented an audio clip of purported telephone conversation between Amratesh and another journalist, and had earlier challenged CM Rawat to recommend a CBI probe if the allegations were wrong.

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