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Rao deposes against Sukh Ram
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, November 6
Eight years after the CBI’s swoop at different premises of former Communications Minister and Congress leader Sukh Ram in 1996, the then Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao was today examined by a CBI Special Court here as a witness in a disproportionate assets (DA) case against the one-time strong leader from Himachal Pradesh.

Special Judge Dinesh Dayal drove down to the 9, Moti Lal Nehru Marg residence of Mr Rao from the Tis Hazari Court complex to record his statement after the former Prime Minister, during whose tenure Sukh Ram was arrested by the CBI in August 1996, expressed his inability to attend the court due to age-related problems.

During his half-an-hour deposition, CBI prosecutor Gurdial Singh questioned Mr Rao about the recovery of Rs 3.62 crore from Sukh Ram’s different premises by the agency in simultaneous raids on August 16 and 17, 1996, in the wake of the latter’s statement earlier that the money belonged to the Congress.

Mr Rao told the court that none other than the Congress treasurer was authorised to collect the money for the party and he, too, was not permitted to keep it at his residence as he has to deposit it in the party’s bank account, the CBI counsel later told mediapersons, who were not allowed to be present during the examination of the former premier.

Mr Sukh Ram, who was Minister of State for Communications in the Rao government, faced three cases of which two related to alleged favouring of a Hyderabad-based telecom company and a Rohtak-based cable supplier respectively, while the third related to the “acquiring” of assets disproportionate to his known sources of income.

The statement of the former Prime Minister was recorded today in the DA case in the light of Mr Sukh Ram’s claim that the money recovered from his premises did not belong to him but was meant for party fund as, during the relevant period, Mr Rao was also the Congress President.

Mr Sukh Ram, who later formed his own party, the Himachal Vikas Congress (HVC), had returned to the Congress fold after his outfit was badly mauled in the last Assembly elections in the state, when he could only manage to retain his own seat.

The CBI had filed a chargesheet against him in the DA case in 1998, alleging that during the relevant check period for assessing his assets, he had acquired unaccounted wealth worth Rs 5.36 crore, which included movable and immovable property, jewellery, cash and some investments.

Among the immovable property accounted by the CBI was a house in Kaushambi in Ghaziabad bordering East Delhi, a farmhouse, a hotel and an apple orchard in Mandi.

The Special Court, which had framed charges against Mr Sukh Ram on July 10, 2001, posted further hearing in the case on November 29, Mr Gurdial Singh said.

Mr Rao may have to appear before the court once again.


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