Trial judge free to examine Virbhadra: Court

Union minister and former chief minister Virbhadra Singh Saturday again failed to get reprieve from the Himachal Pradesh High Court in a graft case.

Shimla: Union minister and former chief minister Virbhadra Singh Saturday again failed to get any reprieve from the Himachal Pradesh High Court in a corruption case registered against him and his wife by the state`s vigilance and anti-corruption bureau in 2009. The trial court was free to examine the accused, said the high court.

The division bench of Chief Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice V.K. Ahuja, which reserved its order Jan 5, said: "The trial court (in Shimla) is free to examine the accused."

The union minister of micro, small and medium enterprises earlier sought transfer of the corruption case to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and quashing of a police complaint against them.

He also petitioned for a stay on the trial court proceedings in the case.
Virbhadra Singh and his wife Pratibha Singh were booked by state police Aug 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

"The trial court has already summoned the petitioners by order dated Oct 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 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.

The prosecution filed the charge sheet against the couple in the court of Special Judge B.L. Soni in October 2010. Soon after the registration of the case in 2009, the union minister and his wife moved the high court.

A single bench of the high court Sep 3, 2010, turned down the minister`s petition to transfer the case to the CBI.
A division bench of the court said Oct 1, 2010 "it is neither an appropriate case nor in a stage to grant the prayer to transfer the investigation to the CBI and dismissed the petition".


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