Two days after union minister and former Himachal Pradesh chief
minister Virbhadra Singh celebrated his birthday and 50 years in
politics, a court here Monday framed corruption charges against
him and his wife Pratibha Singh.
Special Judge B.L. Soni, while pronouncing the order, said the
"materials on record show existence of criminal conspiracy by
Virbhadra and Pratibha Singh".
The trial court adjourned the case sine die pending a Himachal
Pradesh High Court decision on Virbhadra Singh's petition seeking
either the transfer of the corruption case to the Central Bureau
of Investigation (CBI) or quashing a police complaint against him
and his wife.
It means the trial court will now hear the case after a green
signal from the high court.
"Charges framed under Section 120-B of the Indian Penal Code (IPC)
and Sections 7, 11 and 13 (1) (d) of the Prevention of Corruption
Act against accused Virbhadra Singh and under Section 120-B of the
IPC and Section 9 of the Prevention of Corruption Act against
accused Pratibha Singh," the 31-page order said.
It said: "Since the accused are not present today (Monday), hence
charges could not read over and explained to them today."
However, defence counsel Shrawan Dogra, in a signed statement to
the media, said: "After forming opinion to frame charge, (the
court) has to put the charge to the accused and explain it to him.
Then accused is asked whether he pleads guilty or not or he claims
trial. Then accused is asked to sign the charges framed against
him. This is the complete framing of charge, which exercise has
not been undertaken today in view of the high court's interim
The prosecution had filed the charge sheet against the couple in
Virbhadra Singh and Pratibha Singh were booked by Himchal Pradesh
Police Aug 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.
According to the police, the couple was booked on the basis of an
audio cassette released by Virbhadra Singh's political adversary
Vijai Singh Mankotia in 2007.
The cassette allegedly contained Virbhadra Singh's telephonic
conversation with Indian Administrative Service officer Mohinder
Lal, who is now dead.
It also contained voices of his wife and some industrialists, who
have been identified by the police, proposing to invest in the
The trial court order said: "The materials collected show the
existence of 'strong suspicion' qua the involvement of the accused
"The matter of grant of permission for establishment of cement
plant by Gujarat Ambuja Ltd. and installation of effluent
treatment plant by Mohan Meakin Ltd. (a known brewery in Solan
town) was pending consideration of the government of which
Virbhadra was the chief minister and his wife Pratibha Singh
assured the clearance of the projects," observed the court.
It said: "As per the procedure prescribed, the arrival of the
project, i.e. the cement plant, was to be accorded approval by a
sub-committee of four ministers but accused Virbhadra accorded
approval without obtaining consent of two other ministers. They
are alleged to have received illegal gratification worth
Rs.500,000 and thereafter, cement plant clearance was given."
"Mohan Meakin was further granted time for the completion of the
plant/machinery. Accused Virbhadra being chief minister was the
public servant. The materials on record show existence of criminal
conspiracy against Virbhadra, Pratibha Singh and deceased Mohinder
While hearing the petition of Virbhadra Singh, who has been the
state's chief minister five times in the past, the high court in
January observed that the trial court was free to examine the
The division bench of Chief Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice V.K.
Ahuja said: "The trial court is free to examine the accused."