Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh, accused in a disproportionate assets case along with others, on Tuesday claimed in Delhi high court that CBI cannot on its own decide to probe offences outside Delhi without the consent of the concerned state.
His counsel told justice Vipin Sanghi that in the instant matter, the alleged offence was committed in Himachal Pradesh as the disproportionate assets were located there and hence the police of that state should have been probing it.
“CBI cannot investigate matters outside Delhi without the consent of the state concerned. Where disproportionate assets are located, that is where offence is committed,” senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Singh, said.
Sibal argued that it was not a case of corruption where office of a public servant is relevant. “It is a case of disproportionate assets where location of assets is relevant.”
He said CBI “cannot be used as an instrument of oppression” by going after matters in other states.
He also questioned why an FIR was not lodged in Himachal Pradesh. “Nobody stopped registration of FIR in Himachal Pradesh. What prevented them from lodging FIR there?”
“CBI or the central government cannot arrogate to itself the power that whatever happens in a state, it will investigate. That will destroy the federal structure of government,” Sibal said.
He said if the probe by state police was found to be unsatisfactory, then the court could have been approached to monitor the investigation or to order a CBI probe.
The court listed the matter tomorrow when it will hear arguments on behalf of the state government on whether its consent was required for CBI to probe the case.
Singh had earlier claimed before the court that CBI’s FIR against him was “premature” as it was based on the proceedings of Income Tax department, which was still pending.
He had said that CBI had lodged a preliminary enquiry (PE) in October 2012 which was later closed, but the agency registered a second PE on June 17 last year based on the same facts which were already investigated by it.
Singh had also claimed in court that the way in which probe was conducted showed an “element of enthusiasm” on CBI’s part, which indicated an element of “malafide”.
CBI had told the high court that its probe in the DA case against Singh and others was “complete” and it wanted to file the charge sheet in the matter.
The Himachal Pradesh High Court in an interim order on October 1, 2015, had restrained the agency from arresting, interrogating or filing a charge sheet against Singh in the case without its permission.
The matter, in which Himachal Pradesh HC had passed the interim order, was transferred by the Supreme Court to the Delhi High Court, which on April 6 this year had directed CBI not to arrest Singh and asked him to join the probe.
The direction had come when the court was disposing of CBI’s application seeking vacation of the Himachal Pradesh High Court order, which the agency claimed had “seriously held up” its investigation in the case.
On November 5 last year, the apex court had transferred Singh’s plea from Himachal Pradesh HC to Delhi HC, saying it was not expressing any opinion on the merits of the case, but “simply” transferring the petition “in interest of justice and to save the institution (judiciary) from any embarrassment”.
CBI had moved the apex court seeking transfer of the case here and setting aside the interim order granting protection from arrest and other relief granted to Virbhadra.
A DA case was lodged against the Chief Minister and others by CBI under sections 13(2) and 13(1)(e) of the Prevention of Corruption Act and section 109 (punishment for abetment) of the IPC.