Virbhadra case verdict tomorrow



Shimla (Sep 30): The Himachal Pradesh High Court would decide Union Steel Minister Virbhadra Singh’s fate on Friday. The court on Monday had reserved its order on his plea of transfer of a corruption case filed against him by the state police to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

A division bench comprising Chief Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice Deepak Gupta had reserved the verdict. In the last hearing, state counsel Satyapal Jain argued that the decision to transfer the case from the state police to the CBI should be done in the rarest of rare cases. “There is no solid basis for the transfer of the case to the CBI at this point in time when the government has completed its investigation and is ready to file the chargesheet in the trial court,” he said.

Singh’s counsel RS Cheema argued that the case was registered on the basis of an audio CD whose origin, source and authenticity were not known. “Since Virbhadra Singh is a public figure and to restore the confidence of the public, the case should be referred to the CBI,” Cheema said.

Virbhadra Singh, five-time former chief minister, moved the high court on September 14 also seeking that a similar case against Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal and Director General of Police DS Manhas also be investigated. Before this division bench listed the matter for hearing, three judges of the high court recused themselves from hearing Virbhadra Singh’s plea.

In the petition, Virbhadra Singh said that after Dhumal became CM in December 2007, the government registered a case against him and his wife Aug 3, 2008 under the Prevention of Corruption Act on the basis of an audio CD released by his political adversary Vijai Singh Mankotia in 2007.  According to police, Virbhadra Singh was heard allegedly referring to some monetary transactions on the phone with Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer Mahinder Lal, who is now dead. The CD also contained the voices of his wife and some industrialists.

The case was listed for its first hearing on September 17 when Jain gave a verbal undertaking that the state would not file a chargesheet against the petitioner till the matter is pending with the high court.  A single bench of the high court on September 3 turned down the Union minister’s petition to transfer the case to the CBI. “Now we are seeking the transfer of the case under Article 226 of the constitution (that deals with special powers of high courts),” his counsel said.

Mr. Singh also alleged that when the two audio CDs surfaced – both allegedly containing voices of Dhumal and one containing the voice of Manhas in January this year – the government adopted different yardsticks for their investigation. In the alleged conversation recorded in one of the CDs, Manhas (then the vigilance chief) was heard asking Dhumal about tapping the phones of Virbhadra Singh and his wife. At this Dhumal replied: “Do it.

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