Shimla: Two days after Union minister and former Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh celebrated his birthday and 50 years in politics, a court here on Monday framed corruption charges against him and his wife Pratibha Singh.
Special Judge BL Soni pronounced the order in the court.
While delivering the verdict, the trial court adjourned the case sine die pending a Himachal Pradesh High Court decision on Virbhadra Singh`s petition seeking either the transfer of the corruption case to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) or quashing a police complaint against him and his wife.
It means the trial court will now hear the case after a green signal from the High Court.
Monday`s development is significant as Union Minister for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Virbhadra Singh himself announced in Dharamsala on June 8 that he would resign in case charges were framed against him in the case.
Special public prosecutor Jiwan Lal Sharma said that charges against Virbhadra was farmed under Sections 7, 11 and 13 of the Prevention of Corruption Act and Section 120-B of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
He said charges against Pratibha Singh were framed under Section 9 of the Corruption Act and Section 120-B of the IPC.
The prosecution had filed the chargesheet against the couple in October 2010.
Virbhadra Singh and Pratibha Singh were booked by the state police on August 3, 2009, under the Prevention of Corruption Act for alleged misuse of his official position and criminal misconduct when he was the chief minister of the state in 1989.
According to the police, the couple was booked on the basis of an audio cassette released by Virbhadra Singh`s political adversary Vijai Singh Mankotia in 2007.
The cassette allegedly contained Virbhadra`s telephonic conversation with Indian Administrative Service officer Mahinder Lal, who is now dead.
It also contained voices of his wife and some industrialists, who have been identified by police, proposing to invest in the state.
Defence counsel had contended that the case was frivolous and it was registered on the basis of an audio cassette whose origin, source and authenticity were not known.
While hearing five-time chief minister Virbhadra Singh`s petition in January, the High Court observed that the trial court was free to examine the accused.
The division bench of Chief Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice VK Ahuja said: "The trial court is free to examine the accused."
"The trial court has already summoned the petitioners by order dated on October 23, 2010. That order has become final. The next stage is consideration of charge. Having not challenged the order under Section 204 CrPC (code of criminal procedure) the petitioners have to face the next stage of consideration of charge," the bench had said, adding "consideration of charge did not mean that charges have been framed".
"The petitioners and the respondents have advanced several arguments and have raised several contentions including the maintainability of the writ petition. We do not think it necessary, at this stage, to go into all those aspects," the bench said.
"The trial court has posted the case for consideration of charge. As we have clarified the legal position, consideration of the police charge and the documents sent therewith is the exercise to be undertaken by the trial court. The trial court is free to examine the accused," it said.
"In case the petitioners are discharged in the process of the consideration under Section 239 CrPC, it`s not necessary to consider the other prayers in the writ petition. On the contrary, in the process, in case the charges are framed against the petitioners only then all other contentions need be looked into, including the one for investigation by the CBI," the court said.