Graft case: Virbhadra exempted from personal appearance

December 16th, 2010 - 3:10 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party Shimla, Dec 16 (IANS) A special court here Thursday granted union Steel Minister Virbhadra Singh and his wife exemption from personal appearance in a corruption case.Appearing in the court of special judge B.L. Soni for the first time since the chargesheet was filed against them by Himachal Pradesh’s vigilance and anti-corruption bureau Oct 1, Virbhadra Singh and his wife Pratibha Singh, a former member of parliament, were handed over a copy of the police challan by the court.

The next hearing is scheduled for March 5.

“The case is just a political vendetta to level allegations against me by the (Prem Kumar) Dhumal-led BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) government. It is not new for me,” Virbhadra Singh told reporters outside the court.

Virbhadra Singh, who has been 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 chargesheet 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 chargesheet also quoted payment of bribery by promoters of Gujarat Ambuja Cement and Mohan Meakin Ltd, a well-known brewery.

Special Public Prosecutor Jiwan Lal Sharma told IANS that the couple got conditional bail on two counts - that they would not influence the witnesses and will not commit a similar offence.

In the last hearing, the court said that there were “sufficient grounds to proceed against Virbhadra Singh and Pratibha Singh under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.”

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