The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Monday apprised the Delhi high court of its opposition to providing Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh a copy of the money laundering case lodged against him.
However, additional solicitor general Tushar Mehta, appearing for the ED, sought time from the court to get back on whether Singh can be denied a copy of the case after justice Ashutosh Kumar questioned whether someone can be divested of their legal right to have the documents.
The judge also said if the documents sought were not given to Singh, they could not be used against him during trial.
The court also asked about the reasons for ED’s refusal to give the documents and said the agency would have to convince it about it.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), represented by additional solicitor general PS Patwalia, told the court that it would provide a Xerox copy of the documents seized from Singh’s office and residence, adding that that 40% of the photocopying work was over.
However, the agency told the high court that it had kept the documents with it on the direction of the trial court and, if Singh required a copy, he should have approached the trial court.
The high court, thereafter, adjourned the matter to January 7, saying it would pass orders on that date on the plea of Singh.
The ED has filed a case against Singh under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
Singh, in his plea, had also sought a direction to the CBI to provide him all documents seized by the agency when it had raided his residence and office.
On September 26 this year, the CBI had conducted raids at 11 places, including Singh’s residences in Delhi and Himachal, on the day his daughter was getting married. He has also prayed that ED be restrained from taking any action against him for “non-compliance” of summons issued to him on November 16 in connection with the money laundering case.
On December 2, the high court had sought CBI’s reply to Singh’s plea seeking quashing of FIR lodged against him in a disproportionate assets case.
On November 5, the Supreme Court had transferred the plea of Singh from the Himachal Pradesh high court to the Delhi high court, saying it was not expressing any opinion on the merits of the case but “simply” transferring the petition “in the interest of justice and to save the institution (judiciary) from any embarrassment”.
The CBI had moved the apex court seeking transfer of the case from the Himachal Pradesh HC and setting aside of the interim order granting him protection from arrest and other relief.
The chief minister had filed a petition in the Himachal Pradesh HC pleading that the searches at his private residence and other premises were conducted with “malafide intentions and political vendetta” by the central investigating agency.
Singh had sought directions from the high court to quash the FIR registered against him and his wife under Sections 13 (2) and 13(1) (e) of the Prevention of Corruption Act and Section 109 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) by the CBI in Delhi on September 23.
The case so far
The charge: Himachal Pradesh CM Virbhadra Singh and his family are alleged to have amassed `6.1 crore when he served as Union minister of steel from 2009 to 2011.
Named in CBI FIR filed in Sept 2015: Virbhadra Singh; his wife, Pratibha Singh; insurance agent Anand Chauhan; and Chauhan’s brother, CL Chauhan. Taking cognizance of the CBI case, the ED filed a case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) against Singh.
The crackdown: The CBI and ED, through separate raids, searched Singh’s premises in Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Maharashtra and West Bengal; claim to have gathered documents to trace suspected “proceeds of crime” channelled allegedly by him and his associates using purported illegal funds.
Come back: Singh in November moved a Delhi trial court seeking a complete copy of the FIR registered against him.
Setback: However, the trial court on December 2 dismissed Singh’s plea. The court said since statements and calculations relating to the alleged disproportionate assets were not annexed with the FIR registered in the case, those cannot be supplied to Singh.