Two more judges of the Himachal Pradesh High Court Friday recused themselves from hearing Union Steel Minister Virbhadra Singh’s plea to transfer the alleged corruption case against him to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), a day after another judge refused to hear the case.
A division bench of Justice R.B. Misra and Justice V.K. Sharma recused themselves from the case Friday. Justice Misra announced in the court: ‘We will not hear the case.’
He asked counsel for both the parties to ask Chief Justice Kurian Joseph for placing the petition before the appropriate court.
A senior court official said the petition is likely to be placed before another division bench after lunch Friday.
The petition was Thursday placed before a division bench of Chief Justice Joseph and Justice Rajeev Sharma for the first time for hearing.
As the petition came for hearing, Justice Joseph announced in the court that Justice Rajeev Sharma refused to hear the case. Later in the evening, Justice Joseph placed the petition in another division bench and listed the matter for hearing Friday.
While Justice Misra has been serving the Himachal Pradesh High Court as judge since April 30, 2008, both Justice Rajeev Sharma and Justice V.K. Sharma have been serving the high court as additional judges respectively since 2007 and 2010.
Virbhadra Singh, five-time former chief minister, moved the high court Sep 14 for transferring the alleged corruption case against him from the state police to the CBI. He also sought that the CD case against Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal and Director General of Police (DGP) D.S. Manhas also be investigated.
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.
Police say that in the CD, Virbhadra Singh was heard allegedly referring to some monetary transactions during his phone conversation with Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer Mahinder Lal, who is now dead. It also contained the voices of his wife and some industrialists.
The high court had Sep 3 turned down Virbhadra Singh’s petition to transfer the case to the CBI. The court ruled that the investigation could not be transferred to the CBI under Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
‘Now we are seeking the transfer of the case under Article 226 of the constitution,’ his counsel 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 of 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.’