A special court in Shimla on Monday framed charges against Union Minister for Small, Micro and Medium Industries Virbhadra Singh and his wife Pratibha Singh in a 23-year-old graft case.
Special Judge B L Soni, who had reserved framing charges on conclusion of arguments on June 6 last said that sufficient evidence existed for framing of charges against Singh and his wife in the "infamous" CD case in which they were allegedly having a conversation with IAS officer Mohinder Lal and some industrialists regarding monetary transactions.
The special court framed charges under section 120 B of IPC and section 7,11 and 13 of Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA) against 78-year old Singh.
The former Himachal Pradesh chief minister and his wife were booked in the case on August 3, 2009, on the basis of an audio CD released by former Congress Minister Vijay Singh Mankotia in May 2007 and the prosecution filed the case in the court of special judge in October 2010.
The trial in the case would not start immediately as a case filed by Singh in the high court, seeking quashing of the FIR or transferring the investigations to the CBI is pending.
A division bench of the high court, comprising Chief Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice V K Ahuja had on January 7 last declined to give any relief to the Singh and his wife on their plea to quash the case or refer it to CBI and stay the proceedings in the trial court and asked them to appear before the trial court.
The bench had said that "the order of the trial court of October 23, 2010, summoning the accused to appear before the court was final and the petitioners have to face the next stage of consideration of charge" and added that merely consideration of charge did not mean that charges have been framed.
Public prosecutor Jiwan Lal Sharma said that the charges have been framed but the trial would start only after the matter pending in high court was disposed off.
The audio cassette pertaining to graft case against Singh was also played in the court during the hearing.
Reacting to the framing of charges, Virbhadra Singh said, "The evidence is concocted. The CD has not been authenticated. They have not compared my voice".
On asked whether he would resign, he said, "I don't care for my office at all. I don't want to embarrass my party and the Prime Minister. As and when the occasion arises, certainly I will take appropriate action".
Mankotia said that it was victory of justice and truth and demanded the minister's resignation. "I have been fighting a lone battle and finally justice has been done," he said.
He said that Singh should have resigned on moral grounds when the CD was made public but he did not reign and even the prime minister did not drop him from Union Cabinet but now there was no reason for him to stay in the cabinet.