In a major relief to Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, the state high court on Thursday asked the CBI not to arrest him and his wife in a disproportionate assets case. However, the court directed the central agency to go ahead with the investigation.
“…by way of abundant precaution, it’s made clear that the petitioners shall not be arrested,” a division bench of Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Sureshwar Singh Thakur said while hearing a writ petition filed by Virbhadra Singh.
Virbhadra Singh said in his petition that the CBI’s action of raiding his residences was done with mala fide and political vendetta.
The next date of hearing in the case is November 18.
The court observed that “there is a prima facie case in favour of the petitioners and the balance of convenience is also in their favour”.
“The petitioners will suffer irreparable loss and injury in case interim directions are not issued at this stage. The Central Bureau of Investigation is directed to go ahead with the investigation but the statements of the petitioners shall not be recorded without the leave of the court,” the court said.
Regarding interrogation of the chief minister and his wife Pratibha Singh following the registration of the case on September 23, the high court said: “It’s also made clear that as and when the dossier is complete, it shall be open for the CBI to approach this court for permission to interrogate the petitioners in accordance with law.”
It further clarified to the CBI that it shall not file a challan without the express leave of this court. “These observations shall have no bearing on the pendency of any case, including before the Delhi High Court.”
Senior Congress leader and former union minister Kapil Sibal appeared for Virbhadra Singh and challenged the registration of the FIR and the raid at his residences.
The chief minister on Wednesday moved the high court to seek relief in the CBI case registered against him followed raids on 13 premises, including his residences in state capital Shimla and Delhi.
In his petition, Virbhadra Singh pleaded that the inquiry against him and his wife fell under the income tax category, and the matter was already under probe by the income tax department and consideration of the high court.
He said he was the chief minister of a state and as such, it was imperative for the CBI to seek permission from appropriate authorities for filing a criminal case. He said raids by the CBI at his residences or other places without sanction of prosecution could not be conducted.
The petitioner pleaded that the preliminary inquiry in the matter and the FIR registered on its basis suffered from legal infirmities and was against section 6 of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act and hence it should be quashed.
The CBI raided Virbhadra Singh’s private residence, Holly Lodge, in Jakhu Hills in Shimla, on September 26. At that time, the chief minister and his family were busy with his daughter’s marriage.