The Delhi High Court on Monday dismissed a plea by Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh and others seeking quashing of a money laundering case filed against them by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). Justice R.K. Guaba rejected the plea of the Chief Minister, his wife Pratibha Singh, son Vikramaditya Singh and two others, saying the plea against possible arrest and attachment of property cannot be allowed. “The powers conferred on the enforcement officers for purposes of complete and effective investigation include the power to summon and examine ‘any person’,” said the court.
Earlier, the ED had summoned Virbhadra Singh for questioning. The court said the law declares that every such person who is summoned is bound to state the truth and at the time of such investigative process the person summoned is not an accused. “No person is entitled in law to evade the command of the summons issued under section 50 PMLA on the ground that there is a possibility that he may be prosecuted in the future,” the order stated.
On September 2015, the ED had lodged the case against 83-year-old Singh and others under the PMLA after taking cognisance of a criminal complaint filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation. The CBI had filed a chargesheet on March 31, hours after the High Court refused to quash the FIR lodged against Singh and his wife in the disproportionate assets case. Singh had earlier claimed that the FIR was the result of a “political vendetta”.
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The court, however, said the argument of “political vendetta” was not supported by any material. “… those in public life are expected to be open to probity. Higher the position in life (or polity), higher the obligation (moral, if not legal) to be accountable. Endeavours to stall investigation into their affairs by the law enforcement agencies, particularly on technical grounds, have the potency of giving the impression that there is something to hide,” said the court.
The ED is probing allegations against Singh and his family members of having amassed wealth of Rs 6.1 crore disproportionate to his known sources of income between 2009 and 2011 when he was the Union Minister of Steel. It has also attached assets worth around Rs 14 crore in this case under the PMLA.
The ED had arrested a LIC agent, Anand Chauhan, in July 2016 under provisions of the PMLA as he was allegedly not cooperating with the investigating officer. The ED had alleged that Singh, while serving as the Union Minister, had invested huge amounts in purchasing LIC policies in his and his family members’ names through Chauhan.