Virbhadra to appear before court in graft case



Shimla: Union Steel Minister Virbhadra Singh and his wife Pratibha Singh would be appearing before a trial court Nov 30 in connection with a corruption case against them, a lawyer said Friday.

Special Judge B L Soni had issued a notice to the couple Oct 23 in the corruption case registered against them by the state's vigilance and anti-corruption bureau and asked them to be present in court Nov 27 for the trial.

The case has been adjourned since the judge is travelling, said special public prosecutor Jiwan Lal Sharma.

"Since the judge is attending a judicial workshop at Palampur Nov 27 and 28, he has adjourned all the cases. Virbhadra Singh's case that was earlier listed for Nov 27 would now be heard Nov 30," Sharma said.

Virbhadra Singh, who was the chief minister five times earlier, is accused of misusing his official position when he was chief minister in 1989. The couple was booked Aug 3, 2009, on the basis of an audio CD released by his political adversary Vijai Singh Mankotia in 2007.

Virbhadra Singh was purportedly heard referring to some monetary transactions while talking on the phone to Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer Mahinder Lal, who is now deceased. It also contained the voices of Pratibha Singh and some industrialists.

The trial court while issuing the notice to them observed that "there are sufficient grounds to proceed against Virbhadra Singh and (his wife) Pratibha Singh (a former member of parliament) under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988".

The charge sheet against them was filed Oct 1, hours after the Himachal Pradesh High Court dismissed his petition to transfer the case against him to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

The vigilance bureau quoted in its charge sheet payment of bribery by promoters of Gujarat Ambuja Cement and Mohan Meakin Ltd, a well-known brewery.

Virbhadra Singh, who has termed the registration of case as an act of political vendetta by Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, has said: "The CD case is pathetic example of political vendetta. Even during the last tenure (1998 to 2003), the Dhumal-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government made out false and fabricated cases against me. This is nothing but a gross misuse of official machinery."

IANS