SHIMLA, June 25:
Union Minister Virbhadra Singh and his wife were today slapped with charges of conspiracy and corruption in a 23-year-old case by a special court which held that there was sufficient evidence to proceed against them, sparking demands for his resignation.
Charges were framed against 78-year-old Singh, Union Minister for Small, Micro and Medium Industries, and his wife Pratibha Singh under Section 120 B (conspiracy) of IPC and Sections 7,11 and 13 of Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA) dealing with bribery and criminal misconduct.
Special Judge B L Soni, who had reserved orders on June 6, said sufficient evidence existed for framing of charges against Singh and his wife.
The case against Singh goes back to 1989 when he was Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh. The charges are based on an audio CD that purportedly contains a conversation with IAS officer Mohinder Lal and some industrialists regarding monetary transactions for them to invest in the State.
They were booked in the case on August 3, 2009, on the basis of the CD released by his arch rival in the Congress and former minister Vijay Singh Mankotia in May 2007 and the prosecution filed the case in the court of special judge in October 2010.
Following today’s court order, BJP got into an overdrive demanding his removal. “BJP demands that Virbhadra Singh should resign immediately. If he refuses to do so, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should sack him,” party spokesperson Jagat prakash Nadda said in Delhi.
Singh rubbished the allegations. He said the case was “totally fabricated” by the BJP Government in the State which is “after my blood”.
“This is a concocted, totally fabricated case. The CD is not authenticated. They have not compared my voice. I don’t care for my office at all. I don’t want to embarrass my party and my Prime Minister,” he told reporters in Shimla when asked about the court order.
Congress reacted guardedly to the court order, saying it has to go through the charges against Singh, party general secretary Janardan Dwidedi said the
The trial in the case would not start immediately as a case filed by Singh in the high court, seeking quashing of the FIR or transferring the investigations to the CBI, is pending.
“As and when the occasion arises, certainly I will take appropriate action,’ Singh said on being asked whether he will resign.
Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal said, “the forensic science laboratory has verified that the CD is not doctored and the voice is that of Virbhadra Singh.”
Mankotia said that it was victory of justice and truth and demanded the minister’s resignation. “I have been fighting a lone battle and finally justice has been done,” he said.
He said that Singh should have resigned on moral grounds when the CD was made public but he did not reign and even the Prime minister did not drop him from union cabinet but now there was no reason for him to stay in the cabinet.
The CD pertaining to graft case against Singh was also played in the court during the hearing. Singh was also purported to have demanded more money during his talk with the IAS officer.
Public prosecutor Jiwan Lal Sharma said that the charges have been framed but the trial would start only after the matter pending in high court was disposed off.
A division bench of the High Court, comprising Chief Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice V K Ahuja had on January 7 last declined to give any relief to the Singh and his wife on their plea to quash the case or refer it to CBI and stay the proceedings in the trial court and asked them to appear before the trial court.
The bench had said that “the order of the trial court of October 23, 2010, summoning the accused to appear before the court was final and the petitioners have to face the next stage of consideration of charge” and added that merely consideration of charge did not mean that charges have been framed. (PTI)
SHIMLA, June 25: