Wednesday, November 29, 2023

CBI raids Himachal CM’s residences, Congress calls it ‘hate agenda’

Shimla/New Delhi, Sep 26 (IANS) Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh’s houses in the hilly state and in Delhi were raided on Saturday by the CBI in a disproportionate assets case against him and his family even as he prepared for his daughter’s wedding. Virbhadra Singh has refuted the allegations, while the Congress called the raids part of “Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s hate agenda”.

Union Health Minister J.P. Nadda, who belongs to the hill state, demanded the chief minister’s resignation on moral grounds.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) reached Virbhadra Singh’s private residence, Holly Lodge, located in Jakhu hills in Shimla, around 8 a.m. At that time, the chief minister and his family were not at home.

“Searches were conducted at 13 locations in Solan, Rampur, Saharan and his native place in upper Shimla in Himachal Pradesh and in Delhi. Some incriminating documents, property papers, investments have been recovered in the raids,” a CBI official said.

The raid coincided with the wedding of the chief minister’s daughter in Shimla.

Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad called the CBI move “very disappointing”.

“It’s very unfortunate that the CBI is conducting raids on the chief minister’s house in relation to a case that is sub-judice. How can the CBI conduct raids in a case that is sub-judice?” asked Azad.

On the other hand, Nadda demanded the immediate resignation of the chief minister on moral grounds.

“The FIR was registered when Virbhadra Singh was union steel minister. There was corruption and this has been proved now. He has no right to continue. He should resign,” Nadda said.

The case was registered on September 23 under the Prevention of Corruption Act against the former union minister, his wife Pratibha Singh, LIC agent Anand Chauhan and an associate, Chunnilal.

“The FIR was the outcome of a preliminary inquiry which revealed that Virbhadra Singh, while serving (as union minister) during 2009-2012, had allegedly accumulated assets worth Rs.6.03 crore in his name and in the name of his family members which were found to be disproportionate to his known sources of income,” a CBI official said.

“The other FIR named people who had allegedly abetted the then union minister in committing the offence,” he said.

The CBI on June 18 initiated a preliminary inquiry against Virbhadra Singh and his family over allegations of corruption and acquiring disproportionate assets during his tenure as union steel minister.

The official said Virbhadra Singh invested his unaccounted income in LIC policies in his name and in the name of his family through Anand by showing the same as agricultural income.

“This was done by creation of an MoU (memorandum of understanding) purportedly dated June 15, 2008 for maintenance of an apple orchard, with the said private person for a period of three years,” the official said.

The CBI official later said the private person allegedly deposited Rs.5 crore in his own bank account and debited the same through cheques for purchasing various LIC policies in their names.

“Later, Virbhadra Singh allegedly attempted to legitimise the same as agricultural income by filing revised income tax returns in 2012. The agricultural income as claimed by him in his revised ITRs was not found to be tenable. The then union minister had allegedly accumulated other assets disproportionate to known sources of income,” he said.

Coming out in support of their leader, who is at the helm for the sixth time, the state cabinet ministers said there was no question of his resignation.

“Virbhadra Singh had come out clean earlier twice, when he faced session trials in former BJP chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal’s tenure. We are sure that he would come out clean this time also and will emerge even stronger,” Industries Minister Mukesh Agnihotri told reporters in Shimla.

He said the Congress Legislature Party would meet here on Sunday to pass a resolution to express solidarity with Virbhadra Singh.

He said the CBI was asked to conduct raids at his residence when there was a marriage.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi is acting like a dictator and has made an attempt to defame and destabilise the elected Congress government. We already apprehended it yesterday (Friday) and hence all the ministers had sent a signed release, saying that we are rock solid behind the chief minister,” he said.

At the press conference, Agnihotri was accompanied by his cabinet colleagues, including Vidya Stokes, Sudhir Sharma, Thakur Singh Bharmouri and Dhani Ram Shandil.

Soon after the raid at the chief minister’s Shimla residence, Chief Secretary P. Mitra and Director General of Police Sanjay Kumar reached there.

Beside Virbhadra Singh, his wife, former two-time MP, son Vikramaditya Singh and daughter Aparajita Kumari have also been named in the case.

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