Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh was charged by the CBI with amassing disproportionate assets. (File photo)
Virbhadra Singh, the 82-year-old Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh, has been charged by the CBI with amassing crores more than he could account for. A charge-sheet was filed on Friday minutes after the Delhi High Court dismissed the Chief Minister's plea to drop the case.
The CBI's swift action to file the charge-sheet after the court verdict was seen as an attempt to pre-empt the six-time Chief Minister from moving the Supreme Court. The Chief Minister had earlier got an order from the courts to prevent the CBI from arresting him, something that may have forced him to quit. He was, however, questioned by the CBI last year
The CBI charge-sheet, which comes months before the state goes to assembly elections later this year, would come as an embarrassment for the Congress veteran who has been the Himachal chief minister for nearly 20 years and a five-time lawmaker in Lok Sabha. When the CBI first started the probe, the BJP had demanded that Mr Singh quit
till he comes clean. Notwithstanding Mr Singh's assertion that the CBI case was prompted by politics, such voices would get louder over the next few weeks, and months.
In its charge-sheet, the agency accused the Chief Minister and his wife of amassing assets worth Rs 10.3 crores that it alleged was 192 percent more than what they could have honestly earned. Seven others have been named as conspirators.
The case was registered in Delhi, and not in Shimla on the ground that Mr Singh was a Union Minister from 2009 to 2012 when he is alleged to have accumulated assets. This allowed the CBI
to circumvent the need to get the state government's consent required under the law before the agency can probe a crime. In this case, it would have meant that the CBI could not proceed against Mr Singh till he permitted it.
The CBI also named an LIC agent Anand Chauhan who was arrested by Enforcement Directorate in July last year in a money laundering case linked to the disproportionate assets case.