A prima facie case of money laundering appears to be made out against Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, the Centre today told the Delhi High Court. The bench headed by Chief Justice G Rohini also took note of allegations of receipt of unaccounted money to the tune of nearly Rs 5 crores by the chief minister and filing of revised Income Tax returns for years 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12 by him. The revised IT returns showed an increase in agricultural income to the tune of Rs 6.10 crore, a PIL, filed by NGO 'Common Cause', claimed.
"Meanwhile, the Income Tax department shall file before the court the tax assessment records and other documents of Respondent no.5 (Singh)," the bench, also comprising Justice Jayant Nath, said. During the brief hearing, Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain, appearing for the Centre, said, "There was enough prima facie material available on record to say that a case of money laundering is made out against respondent no. 5 (Singh)."
The ASG was responding to the submissions made by Prashant Bhushan, who is representing the NGO, that an undue delay has been caused by the agency in registering an FIR despite the fact that there is sufficient material to prosecute Singh.
Only the CBI can say about the exact status of the investigation, the ASG said. Reacting to the Centre's submission, Singh said he has "nothing to fear as I have done no wrong". He said in Shimla that the matter is subjudice but he expects all the investigating agencies to be "just and fair". Without naming any individual, the Himachal CM said he was being framed in these cases "but I will fight it out".
During the high court proceedings, Bhushan cited a Supreme Court judgement and said the CBI, which had lodged the preliminary enquiry long back, should have completed it within a week. It should have lodged an FIR, he said.The bench is hearing the PIL alleging that Singh, during his tenure as the Chief Minister and Union Minister, had indulged in corruption, money laundering and forgery. He also amassed assets disproportionate to the known sources of income, the PIL alleged.
The PIL is seeking a court-monitored "investigation by the CBI and the Income Tax Department" into the charges of money laundering, corruption, disproportionate assets, criminal misconduct against Singh.
The allegations, made in the PIL, include cash payment of about Rs 2.28 crore to Singh by an MNC steel firm during 2008 and 2010 when he was the Union Steel Minister.
The petition also alleged that during the IT scrutiny of one Anand Chauhan, it came to light that he (Chauhan) had deposited around Rs 5 crore in a Punjab National Bank account in Shimla. "It was then revealed that he deposited about Rs 5 crores in cash in his bank account and also made corresponding payments by cheque for LIC premiums totalling roughly Rs 5 crore in favour of Respondent No 5 (Singh) and his wife and children," Bhushan said, adding that Singh was "the main beneficiary of the unaccounted cash deposits in the account of Chauhan".
In order to explain the unaccounted for money, Singh filed revised income-tax returns for three assessment years, starting 2009 and "an increase in agricultural income to the tune of Rs 6.10 crore" was shown, it said It also alleged that in order to justify payment of Rs 5 crore by Chauhan as LIC premiums for policies in his name as well as his family members, Singh produced an MoU, entered into between him and Chauhan in 2008 for maintenance of orchard and selling of apples.
It has also alleged "quid pro quo" in relation to allotment of hydel power project at Sai Kothi to M/s Venture Energy and Technology Pvt Ltd by Singh as the Chief Minister. It further alleged that Singh granted several extensions to the company for execution of the hydel project.
"It is clear that unsecured 'loans' amounting to Rs 3.90 crore were received by Respondent No. 5 (Singh) and his wife (after Respondent No. 5 became the Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh) from the director and promoter of M/s Venture Energy, the company that he had favoured by granting an undue extension despite repeated defaults," it said