NEW DELHI: Uttarakhand chief minister Harish Rawat arrived at the CBI headquarters on Tuesday morning to face questioning in connection with a corruption probe.
The CBI registered a Preliminary Enquiry (PE) on April 29 to investigate allegations of horse-tradingbasedonastingvideo on the state’s request at a time when UttarakhandwasunderPresident’s Rule. The video allegedly showed Rawat negotiating a deal to lure rebel Congress legislators to rustle up support for a floor test on March 28 — which never took place.
An agency source said that Rawat did not give “full and complete details on many issues”. But the CM told mediapersons that he “cooperated” and will appear again on June 7 for questioning. In a veiled attack on the government, he said, “Even an ant can create a problem for an elephant.”
A PE is a precursor to a formal probe and is registered when a complaint is filed or information is available indicating serious misconduct on the part of a public servant, but it is not adequate to justify the registration of an FIR. A notice for questioning in this regard was served to Rawat last week.
Rawatwasearliersummonedfor questioning a day before the floor testonMay10,buthedidnotappear before the CBI. The Uttarakhand HC on May 20 refused to quash the agency’s probe and asked Rawat to “cooperate” in the investigation, but also directed the CBI to show “regard” to the office of the CM.
Instances of the CBI questioning incumbentchief ministersarerare, and its directive to Rawat to appear in Delhi to record his statement in a preliminary enquiry, and not a regular probe, was “avoidable”, said an agency officer, who did not want to be named because he is not authorised to speak to the media.
“Though it is the CBI’s prerogative to decide the venue and time, the agency could have questioned the CM in Dehradun itself, at his office or home,” said the officer. “[It] could have sent him a questionnaire, as has happened a few times in probes involving those holding high posts instead of calling them in like common suspects.”
The CBI recorded two witness statements, including that of a dissident legislator, and said it found the footage to be “genuine”, although it didn’t confirm if it was put through a forensic test.
CBI spokesperson DP Singh told HT, “It is not unusual for anyone to be called for examination at CBI headquarters. The decision in each case depends on the requirements of the investigation.”