The Himachal Pradesh High Court deferred till Monday the hearing of Union Steel Minister Virbhadra Singh’s plea seeking that a corruption case against him be transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
The high court saw intense arguments for over four hours Friday as Virbhadra Singh’s counsel said his client was being falsely implicated.
The hearing came before a division bench of the Himachal Pradesh High Court comprising Chief Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice Deepak Gupta.
Virbhadra Singh’s counsel R.S. Cheema said the case was registered on the basis of an audio CD whose origin, source and authenticity was not known.
“Several conversations were put together (in the recording of the CD) and it was a cut-and-paste job,” he said.
State counsel Satyapal Jain argued that the government has completed the inquiry against the former chief minister.
“Since the inquiry is complete, there is no need to transfer the case to the CBI. There should be no delay in the filing of chargesheet in the trial court.”
The case was listed for its first hearing Sep 17 when Jain gave a verbal undertaking that the state would not file a chargesheet against him till the matter is pending with the high court.
Virbhadra Singh moved the high court Sep 14 for transferring the corruption case against him to the CBI. He also sought that the CD case against Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal and Director General of Police D.S. Manhas also be probed.
In the petition, Virbhadra Singh said that after Dhumal became chief minister in December 2007, the government registered a case against him and his wife Aug 3, 2008 under the Prevention of Corruption Act on the basis of an audio CD released by his political adversary Vijai Singh Mankotia in 2007.
According to the police, Virbhadra Singh was heard allegedly referring to some monetary transactions on the phone with Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer Mahinder Lal, who is now dead. The CD also contained the voices of his wife and some industrialists.
The high court Sep 3 turned down the union minister’s petition to transfer the case to the CBI.
It had given two weeks’ time to Virbhadra Singh to approach an appropriate court or challenge the order in the Supreme Court.
“Now we are seeking the transfer of the case under Article 226 of the constitution,” his counsel had said.
Virbhadra Singh also alleged that when the two audio CDs surfaced – both allegedly containing voices of Dhumal and one containing the voice of Manhas in January this year – the government adopted different yardsticks for their investigation.
In the alleged conversation recorded in one of the CDs, Manhas (then the vigilance chief) was heard asking Dhumal about tapping the phones of Virbhadra Singh and his wife. At this Dhumal replied: “Do it.”