The Delhi high court on Wednesday directed Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh to cooperate with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in probing a disproportionate assets case registered against him.
Justice Pratibha Rani, however, told the agency that it cannot arrest Singh or his wife, Pratibha, in this regard without the court’s consent.
The high court order came after Singh and his wife said they were willing to cooperate with the CBI if the court gave its assurance that they would not be arrested during the investigation process.
However, the investigation agency registered its protest. “We should be allowed to have a free hand in the investigation,” additional solicitor general PS Patwalia told the court.
Patwalia also said that a witness was “pressured” to retract from his statement. However, the court said it was not inclined to go into the merit of the case at this stage.
Senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Ram Jethmalani represented Singh and his wife respectively. Speaking on behalf of Singh, Sibal told the court: “I have been an MLA for 55 years, never lost an election. I have three palaces with me, besides 2,000 acres of forest land. However, I have been prosecuted for just Rs 6 crore.”
On October 1, 2015, the Himachal high court had passed an interim order restraining the CBI from arresting, interrogating or filing a charge sheet against Singh. The CBI sought to vacate the order, contending that it was hampering the investigation.
The Himachal Pradesh high court was hearing a plea by Singh, seeking the quashing of an FIR lodged against him by the CBI.
In November last year, the Supreme Court transferred the DA case against Singh from the Himachal high court to the Delhi high court – stating that the transfer was necessary “to protect the judiciary from embarrassment”.
The apex court, however, did not pass any order to modify the Himachal high court order that restrained the CBI from arresting Singh.