Signalling more trouble for the already battered Congress, the net appears to be closing in on Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh over charges of money laundering and income tax evasion.
The Centre told the Delhi High Court that a prima facie case of money laundering appeared to be made out against Himachal Pradesh.
The union government added that it was for the Central Bureau of investigation (CBI) to decide on further action on the matter.
A bench headed by Chief Justice G Rohini also asked the Income Tax department to submit Singh’s income tax return details and other documents within a week for scrutiny.
“In the meantime, we would like to peruse status reports filed by the CBI in the case,” the bench, also comprising Justice Jayant Nath, said.
The allegations relate to his tenure as the steel minister in the UPA government. Singh came under the scanner following allegations that he had received payments from a steel company which had come to light after raids were conducted on the firm in 2010.
Singh had allegedly altered his income tax account books from 2008 onwards to show a a highly inflated income of around Rs 6.5 crore.
Importantly, the Congress High Command had given a clean chit to Singh.
Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain, appearing for the Centre, said, “There was enough prima facie material available on record to say that a money laundering case is made out against respondent no. 5 (Virbhadra Singh).”
The ASG was responding to the submissions made by Prashant Bhushan, who is representing NGO Common Cause, that an undue delay has been caused by the agency in registering an FIR despite the fact that there is sufficient material to prosecute the Chief Minister.
Only the CBI can say about the exact status of the investigation, the ASG said.
The CBI had earlier told the high court that it can probe allegations of corruption and bribery against the Congress leader during his tenure as chief minister of Himachal Pradesh in 2002 after the court issues necessary order.
The agency had placed an affidavit before the court which on April 4 had asked the CBI to expedite the preliminary enquiry into the allegations of corruption and bribery against Singh and to take it to a logical conclusion.
In the affidavit, the CBI had said probe into the allegations against Singh pertaining to grant of Sai Koti Hydel Power Project to Venture Energy and Technology Pvt Ltd on June 14, 2002 “would require order of the competent high court having jurisdiction”.