Prashant Bhushan questions Virbhadra Singh’s income before Delhi High Court

Shimla: Noted lawyer Prashant Bhushan yesterday filed a Public Interest Litigation against Himachal Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh for indulging in corruption when he was the Union Steel Minister.

While seeking an Income Tax Department and CBI probe he has filed the petition in the Delhi High Court before a division bench of Chief Justice N.V. Ramana and Justice Manmohan. The matter would come up for hearing on November 27.

The issue of dubious transactions including money laundering, corruption, assets disproportionate to his known sources of income and huge investments he made when in Union ministry were raised in the petition.

Virbhadra-SinghThe counsel has maintained that no investigations were ordered despite of detailed and well documented complaints made to the Chief Vigilance Commissioner and the CBI in January earlier this year. The plea added that even the allegations fully supported by primary documents and which have been in public domain for months had not been explored.

“Inaction of the government in ordering a fair and independent investigation despite there being a serious case of misuse of office for personal gain would encourage corruption in the country,” the PIL submitted. It sought direction to the CBI and the income tax department to initiate an investigation under the supervision of the court or CVC into the charges of “money laundering, corruption, possession of disproportionate assets, and criminal misconduct against Virbhadra Singh”.

The petition also added that Virbhadra Singh filed the IT returns for assessment year 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12 showing agricultural income of Rs.735,000, Rs.1,500,000 and Rs.2,500,000 respectively.

But in 2012, in order to explain the unaccounted money, Virbhadra Singh filed revised IT returns for these assessment years showing revised agricultural income and showing an increase of 18 to 30 fold of income in the three years. The total increase in agricultural income amounted to Rs.6.10 crore, the petition stated.
The PIL also stated that on Dec 1, 2010, the IT department seized from the office of ISPAT industries documents whose spread sheet purports to show that payments were made to one “VBS”. But Mr Virbhadra Singh has denied any dealing with ISPAT industries and said the initials “VBS” did not correspond to his name.

Similar allegations were made against Singh by Bhartiya Janata Yuva Morcha leader Arun Dhumal in Shimla a few days ago. Along with the matter of his revised income tax returns Mr Dhumal has also questioned that how the Chief Minister who has shown his son Vikram Aditya as a dependent on him has more than one crore rupees in his (son’s) bank account and has an LIC policy of Rs 2.5 crore.

Questioning Singh’s financial prudence he said the Chief Minister has shown a Rs 4 crore loan taken at the rate of 12.5 percent from a private person Vakaullah Chandrashekhar when he was already having more than Rs 10 crore in his personal accounts and can get loans from nationalised banks at a much cheaper rate.

Mr Vakamullah has been allotted a 15 MW Saikothi Hydro Power Project in Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh. The government led by Singh has cancelled 9 other similar hydro electric projects on the plea of delay in construction but the company owned by the person who had given him a loan was given 4 extensions and its penalty was also waived off, claimed Mr Dhumal.

KY Singh is a political observer and a senior journalist with an interest in a diverse set of issues related to Himachal Pradesh and other mountain states. He lives in Shimla.

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