In a setback to former chief minister Harish Rawat, Uttarakhand High Court on Monday permitted the CBI to register an FIR against the Congress leader in connection with a 2016 sting video that purportedly showed him negotiating a deal to buy the support of rebel MLAs.
A bench of Justice Dhulia gave the nod to the CBI to go ahead with its investigations in the case and lodge an FIR against Rawat after the agency submitted a report in a sealed cover on the preliminary inquiry.
Former Union minister and senior Supreme Court lawyer Kapil Sibal, appearing for Rawat, contended that the CBI’s preliminary inquiry report is invalid as the Rawat government, which was restored after an order of the Supreme Court, had decided through a cabinet meeting to form an SIT to conduct an investigation in the case.
Citing the example of the SR Bommai case, Sibal said the Supreme Court had ruled that the decisions taken by the Governor during President’s rule will be held unconstitutional.
However, Assistant Advocate General Rakesh Thapliyal, appearing for the government and the CBI, said that the accused could not have the right to decide which agency will conduct an investigation against him.
Alleging a deep conspiracy in the case, Sibal said that a report from the Chandigarh lab on the authenticity of the sting CD was a proof in itself. He presented before the court the details of an earlier conversation between cabinet minister Harak Singh Rawat and Umesh Sharma, who allegedly conducted the purported sting operation.
Previously, the CBI had informed the court that it wants to present the preliminary inquiry report in the sting case to it and will file an FIR against Harish Rawat in this case.
The video had surfaced in 2016 when the state was under President’s rule. It purportedly showed the Congress leader discussing money to win back the support of disgruntled MLAs who had crossed over to the BJP so that he could to get back in power.
After the reinstatement of the Harish Rawat government following a floor test, his cabinet proposed that the CBI probe be withdrawn and a state-level special investigation team (SIT) formed to look into the matter.
But the central government rejected the proposal and the CBI inquiry continued.
Harish Rawat had challenged the right of the CBI to investigate the matter after the state government withdrew the notification for investigation and decided to get the case examined by the SIT.
The next hearing will be on 1 November.