BENGALURU: In a major setback to Deputy Chief Minister DK Shivakumar, the Karnataka High Court on Thursday dismissed his petition challenging the case registered by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for allegedly possessing Rs 74.93 crore disproportionate assets to his known sources of income during the check period 2013-18 when he was a minister.
Noting that there was an inordinate delay by the petitioner in approaching the high court to quash the crime, Justice K Natarajan pronounced the order dismissing the petition filed by Shivakumar in 2022.
The court came to the conclusion that the investigation had been almost complete and the petitioner appeared before the investigating agency and offered an explanation by producing the voluminous documents. During the investigation, it cannot appreciate the documents and evidence as it amounts to conducting a mini-trial for quashing the FIR, the court observed.
Directing the CBI to complete the investigation and file the final report within three months, the court vacated the stay granted for the investigation and gave liberty to Shivakumar to challenge the final report if he is aggrieved by the same.
Enforcement Directorate wrote a letter to the State Government in September 2019 to the Chief Secretary of Karnataka stating that there was an income tax raid on Shivakumar and the case was also registered against him under Section 200 of CrPC. for the offence punishable under Sections 276C(1) and 277 of the Income Tax Act, 1961 read with Sections 193, 199 and 120B of IPC.
At the time of the raid, they found Rs. 8.50 crores of money recovered from the petitioner and thereafter, they sent information to the Chief Secretary, Government of Karnataka for referring the matter to the CBI for investigation. Based on the letter, the State Government entrusted the investigation to the CBI in September 2019. Based upon the direction of the State Government, the CBI registered an FIR against the petitioner under the Prevention of Corruption Act in October 2020.
On Shivakumar’s allegations of delay in the investigation and filing of the charge sheet, the CBI informed the court that the investigation was stopped as there was a COVID-19 lockdown when the FIR was registered. After the investigation commenced, the petitioner submitted an explanation containing 11 volumes of around 2,412 pages.
596 documents collected as part of probe
At least 596 documents have been collected and 84 witnesses examined by the CBI. Due to the non-availability of documents, the investigation officer was unable to complete the probe and file the charge sheet early, the CBI pleaded.
Taking this into account and also the status of the investigation submitted in a sealed cover, the court declined to accept the contention of Shivakumar to quash the FIR on the grounds of delay in concluding the probe.
“The status report also reveals that the documents produced by the petitioner (Shivakumar) have been under scrutiny. There were huge cash transactions that took place and some other suspicious transactions were held by the petitioner. There were 98 bank accounts pertaining to the petitioner and his family that have been under scrutiny. The CBI has taken the assistance of a chartered accountant to analyse the transactions... The investigation is almost in the final stage. In view of the production of voluminous documents by the petitioner, the investigation officer is unable to conclude the investigation within a short period,” the court noted.
CBI CAN’T CONTINUE PROBE YET
Although the CBI gained an upper hand with this order, it cannot continue the probe as the division bench of the High Court had stayed the sanction given by the state government to prosecute Shivakumar. On last Monday, on hearing the appeal filed by the CBI challenging the stay, the Supreme Court refused to vacate the stay and issued a notice to Shivakumar.