Himachal HC dismisses plea against CM's acquittal

 In a major relief to Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh and his wife, the state high court on Wednesday upheld the judgment of trial court acquitting them in a corruption case.

Shimla: In a major relief to Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh and his wife, the state high court on Wednesday upheld the judgment of trial court acquitting them in a corruption case.

After hearing arguments challenging their acquittal, Justice DC Chaudhary said: "The petition even does not disclose sufficient cause as required for condonation of delay of 96 days."

"The expiry of the limitation prescribed for filing the appeal has resulted in a valuable right in favour of the accused and it cannot be taken away on such grounds, which are not only vague, absurd but false also," the judge said.

Dismissing the petition, Justice Chaudhary said that on merits also no case was found to be made out against the accused.

"Consequently, the petition for seeking leave to appeal and the appeal itself shall also stand dismissed," said the court, which reserved its order on April 22.

S.M. Katwal, former chairman of the HP Subordinate Services Selection Board, filed an appeal in the high court challenging a Shimla trial court order of December 24, 2012, in a corruption case involving an audio CD allegedly containing the conversation of Virbhadra Singh and his wife with IAS officer Mohinder Lal (who is now dead) for obtaining pecuniary advantages from two companies.

The petition said the state government did not file an appeal against the orders as it was headed by Virbhadra Singh himself, who was an accused in the case.

Katwal said he was the de-facto complainant in the case, as he first filed a petition in the high court, seeking directions for a Central Bureau of Investigation probe into the case. 

And, he was the whistle-blower, who initiated the legal proceedings, culminating in the registration of the criminal case against Virbhadra Singh and his wife Pratibha Singh.

Police booked Virbhadra Singh and Pratibha Singh, then sitting MP from Mandi, August 3, 2009, under the Prevention of Corruption Act for alleged misuse of official position and criminal misconduct when he was the chief minister in 1989.

In 2009, the Bharatiya Janata Party government was in power in the state.

"The petitioner has no locus-standi to file the appeal as he is not a victim, hence not competent to file the appeal against the judgment of acquittal. The facts, therefore, remain that the petitioner is inimical to the accused," Justice Chaudhary said in a 131-page judgment.