CBI questions Himachal CM in disproportionate assets case

New Delhi:Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh was on Thursday questioned by the CBI here for acquiring wealth disproportionate to his known sources of income, officials said. Virbhadra Singh, a senior Congress leader, reached here at the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) headquarters around 11 a.m. His questioning lasted till 2 p.m. The probe against the chief minister and his family members was initiated after graft allegations were made against him during his tenure as the union steel minister from 2009 to 2011. The octogenarian chief minister, who was questioned for the first time, reached the national capital on Wednesday and will return to Shimla late Friday. The Delhi High Court on April 5 asked Singh why he did not join the investigation in a disproportionate assets case registered against him by the CBI. "You have been named in the FIR. Why don't you join the investigation and finish it? Ultimately, you have to join it," Justice Pratibha Rani told Virbhadra Singh, who is protected from arrest or interrogation by an order of the Himachal Pradesh High Court. In an oral observation, Justice Pratibha Rani said: "If you have the intention to join the investigation, join it." But the court did not pass any order to ask Singh to join the probe by the CBI. The court was hearing his plea for quashing the first information report lodged against him by the central agency. Additional Solicitor General P.S. Patwalia told the court that the investigation in the case was "seriously held up", and added that the central agency completed a dossier in the case and the "facts which have come up are very, very serious". The Himachal Pradesh High Court had, through an interim order on October 1, 2015, restrained the CBI from arresting or interrogating Virbhadra Singh or filing a charge sheet against him in the Rs 6 crore disproportionate assets case. The CBI has urged the Delhi High Court to vacate the Himachal Pradesh High Court order, contending that the order was hampering the investigation. In November 2015, the Supreme Court transferred the disproportionate assets case against the chief minister to the Delhi High Court from the Himachal Pradesh High Court, saying the transfer was necessary "to protect the institution from embarrassment" and to "avoid further controversy". The apex court, however, did not pass any order to modify the Himachal Pradesh High Court order that restrained the CBI from arresting Singh. The CBI has challenged the order. Virbhadra Singh moved the Himachal Pradesh High Court following CBI searches at his residences in Delhi and Shimla on September 26 last year. The case was registered on September 23 last year under the Prevention of Corruption Act against the chief minister, his wife Pratibha Singh, Life Insurance Corporation agent Anand Chauhan, and associate Chunni Lal. The case was registered after a preliminary inquiry allegedly found that Virbhadra Singh, as union minister during 2009-2012, accumulated assets worth Rs 6.03 crore in his name and in the name of his family members, which were disproportionate to his known sources of income. "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 had said. "The other FIR named people who had allegedly abetted the then union minister in committing the offence," he had said.