CBI moves SC, seeks to question Himachal CM

New Delhi, Oct 15 (IANS) The CBI on Thursday moved the Supreme Court to challenge a Himachal Pradesh High Court order restraining it from interrogating Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh and his wife in an alleged disproportionate assets case and sought their custodial interrogation.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) also filed a petition in the apex court to seek transfer of the case against Virbhadra Singh from Himachal Pradesh to Delhi, where a similar case is pending against him.

An apex court bench headed by Chief Justice H.L. Dattu said the plea would be heard on the opening day after the Dussehra holidays. Additional Solicitor General P.S. Patwalia mentioned the matter before the court in the morning and sought early hearing. The high court order of October 1 has virtually stalled the investigation process, he said.

The high court has asked the CBI not to arrest the chief minister and his wife in the disproportionate assets case. However, it directed the central agency to go ahead with the investigation.

“…by way of abundant precaution, it’s made clear that the petitioners shall not be arrested,” a division bench of Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Sureshwar Singh Thakur said while hearing a writ petition filed by Virbhadra Singh.

In his petition, Virbhadra Singh said the CBI’s action of raiding his residences on September 26 in Delhi and Shimla was mala fide and political vendetta.

Regarding interrogation of Virbhadra Singh and his wife Pratibha Singh following the registration of the case on September 23, the high court said: “It’s also made clear that as and when the dossier is complete, it shall be open for the CBI to approach this court for permission to interrogate the petitioners in accordance with law.”

It clarified to the CBI that it shall not file a challan without the express leave of this court. “These observations shall have no bearing on the pendency of any case, including before the Delhi High Court.”

The next date of hearing in the high court is November 18.

The CBI raided Virbhadra Singh’s private residence, Holly Lodge, in Jakhu Hills in Shimla, on September 26. At that time, the chief minister and his family were busy with his daughter’s marriage.

The case was registered under the Prevention of Corruption Act against Virbhadra Singh, his wife Pratibha Singh, LIC agent Anand Chauhan and an associate, Chunni Lal.

“The FIR was the outcome of a preliminary inquiry which revealed that Virbhadra Singh, while serving (as union minister) during 2009-2012, had allegedly accumulated assets worth Rs.6.03 crore in his name and in the name of his family members which were found to be disproportionate to his known sources of income,” a CBI official said.

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