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Case Seems to Be Made Out Against Virbhadra: Centre

The Centre today told the Delhi High Court that a prima facie case of money laundering appeared to be made out against Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh.

A bench headed by Chief Justice G Rohini also asked the Income Tax Department to file before it tax assessment record and other documents of the chief Minister within a week.

"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.

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".

Earlier, the court had expressed concern over the delay in probing the matter and had said the CBI cannot take so much time.

The affidavit was filed in connection with an application of the NGO seeking direction to the CBI to probe allegations of corruption and bribery against Singh.

It had said that during his tenure as CM, the state government had allotted the Sai Koti project to the private firm.

"The said company defaulted in the execution of the project and the state government granted several extensions to the company. After Singh became the Chief Minister, his government granted it a further extension of 10 months. The decision was made on extraneous considerations," it had alleged.

In its main petition, the NGO has sought a court- monitored CBI inquiry into allegations of money laundering, amassing disproportionate assets and criminal misconduct against Singh during his tenure as Union Steel Minister.

Singh has refuted the allegations.

On November 27, last year, the high court had asked the CBI to file a status report on the action taken by it regarding the corruption allegations against Singh raised in the PIL after the agency said it was conducting an inquiry into the matter.

The PIL alleged that despite complaints to the Centre, the CBI and the CVC, no action has been taken so far, which shows malafide on their part.

Emerging story. Watch this space for updates as more details come in
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