CBI has asked Uttarakhand chief minister Harish Rawat to appear before it on 26 December in connection with a probe into the purported sting operation involving him.
This is the second time that Rawat has been summoned by the CBI on a Preliminary Enquiry (PE) registered by it in last seven months. He had earlier appeared before the agency on 24 May during which he was questioned for nearly five hours.
The agency had registered a preliminary enquiry in connection with the alleged sting operation on 29 April purportedly showing Rawat offering bribes to rebel Congress lawmakers to support him during a floor test in the Uttarakhand Assembly.
This may be a unique case where a sitting chief minister has been summoned by the CBI during its probe of a PE.
The PE is the first step during which the agency verifies the facts in the complaint received by it. During a PE, the agency usually only “requests” a person “to join the probe” and does not summon him, carry out searches or make any arrests.
If verification of facts shows need of further probe, it may register an FIR or else close the PE.
The CBI probe focuses on Rawat’s relations with the owner of a news channel, alleged bribe proposal made to one dissident MLA by him and a minister in his previous cabinet, besides his claims on the purported sting video.
The reason for summoning him against, according to the sources, was because Rawat had not furnished full and complete details on many issues.
The case was registered on the reference received from the state government (during President’s rule) and subsequent notification from BJP-led central government.
Rawat has denied the allegation and called the video fake after it was released by the rebel Congress legislators but later admitted that he was on camera in the sting operation.
After Rawat’s victory in the floor test, the state cabinet had met on 15 May and withdrawn the notification recommending a CBI probe into the sting operation involving him.
Instead, the state cabinet decided to constitute a Special Investigating Team to probe the case as it was a state subject.
CBI had said the notification was rejected after taking legal opinion, which said there was no ground for its withdrawal and it was “not legally tenable”.
The Chief Minister had failed to get a reprieve from Uttarakhand High Court also which had refused to quash the ongoing CBI probe into the sting operation.