The long arm of law, finally, caught up with veteran Mumbai Congressman Kripa Shankar Singh. The Bombay High Court, in a scathing order on Feb 22, directed the Mumbai police commissioner to register an FIR for criminal misconduct and other charges, attach the family’s moveable and immoveable properties and get government sanction for Singh’s prosecution.
Two years after Outlook broke the story on Singh’s disproportionate assets, benami transactions by him and five family members, and of him having two PAN cards (The Charcoal Footprints, Mar 1, 2010), the wheels of justice began moving. Based on the story, businessman and RTI activist Sanjay Tiwari filed a PIL in the HC; he obtained additional information and alleged that Singh had assets worth over Rs 320 crore. Singh had sent Outlook a defamation notice then.
Despite the court order, the police dragged its feet. Police commissioner Arup Patnaik filed the FIR six days later; Singh’s properties were raided and documents seized 3-4 days after that. The special investigation team didn’t get the six chartered accountants it needed for days. The process of attaching his properties was slow; police teams were being prepared this week for Jaunpur in UP—where Singh hails from—as well as Wada, Lucknow and Ranchi where his wife and kin reportedly own land. “We’re following the order,” says Patnaik. He has to submit a report to the HC on April 19.
Currently the Congress MLA from suburban Mumbai, Singh was minister of state (home) earlier in the Maharashtra cabinet and Mumbai chief of the party since 2004. He resigned a day after the HC order, ostensibly owning “moral responsibility” for the Congress’s poor show in the local body election held mid-Feb, but party sources say it had become “untenable” for him to continue. The HC stopped short of directing the registration of a money-laundering offence; the bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice Roshan Dalvi said money exchanges between Singh and son Narendra Mohan “demonstrate an attempt to create cross-entries, the common feature and attribute of money-laundering”.
Singh was appointed AICC observer for Jharkhand, also in 2004, where he had cobbled together support for independent MLA Madhu Koda to become chief minister. Later, Singh married off his son Narendra Mohan, alias Sanjay, to Ankita, daughter of Kamlesh Singh, who was Koda’s closest aide and cabinet minister. The flow of funds into many of the 15 bank accounts held by Singh, wife Malti Devi, Narendra Mohan, Ankita, Singh’s daughter Sunita and son-in-law Vijay Pratap began around that time; the HC termed these entries as “wondrous”. Despite dealing in crores, some accounts of Malti Devi and Narendra Mohan showed a balance of Rs 00.00.
Singh, who migrated to Mumbai in the ’70s and began life as a vegetable vendor, had in his or his kin’s names, among other investments, a 5,000-sq ft bungalow in Bandra west, three flats in Sai Prasad building in Bandra east, two flats with a terrace in Vile Parle near the airport, a 700-sq ft flat in upscale Powai allotted under the CM discretionary quota, a 22,500-sq ft office space in the HDIL building in Bandra-Kurla complex, a triplex flat in Bandra west, and two BMWs.
“I’ve done nothing wrong,” Singh claimed as his lawyers approached the Supreme Court for a stay on the HC order; the SC declined to intervene. For two years, the state Anti-Corruption Bureau, I-T department and Enforcement Directorate had been telling the HC there was little documentary evidence to substantiate the charges in the PIL. The judges found Narendra Mohan’s “income, prima facie, emanates from income and dealings of Kripa Shankar Singh, his father, who as a public figure would be able to generate such funds, albeit only by illegal means, thus showing the son to be an abettor in criminal prosecution”. Further, the HC noted that Malti Devi owned half-a-dozen plots without documents, dabbled in forward trading of gold and silver showing assets worth Rs 1.17 crore which “was prima facie suspect”, and had filed returns only after notices were sent.
Singh was fond of flaunting his “excellent relations” with party chief Sonia Gandhi and general secretary Ahmed Patel; he has, no doubt, become yet another embarrassment for them.