In what is being seen as a setback to former union minister and chief minister Virbhadra Singh just ahead of assembly polls, the Himachal Pradesh High Court Friday directed him to face trial in a lower court next week.
Allowing Virbhadra Singh, who has been booked under the Prevention of Corruption Act along with his wife Pratibha Singh, to withdraw his petition, a division bench of Chief Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice D.C. Chaudhary directed the accused and the prosecution to appear in the court of Special Judge B.L. Soni Sep 7.
“The court has accepted our request to withdraw the petition. We have decided to face trial in the lower court as evidences of the witnesses are to be recorded,” defence counsel Shrawan Dogra told IANS.
The petition sought either the transfer of the corruption case to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) or quashing a police complaint against Virbhadra Singh and his wife.
It also sought that a similar case against Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal and Director General of Police D.S. Manhas also be investigated.
Dogra said the issue of investigation of case against Dhumal and Manhas has been left open by the high court to be incorporated in some other petitions.
Virbhadra Singh, who took over as the Himachal Pradesh Congress Committee chief two days ago, and his wife were booked by the police Aug 3, 2009, for alleged misuse of official position and criminal misconduct when he was the chief minister in 1989.
While pronouncing the order, Soni said the “materials on record show existence of criminal conspiracy by Virbhadra and Pratibha Singh”.
But the trial court had adjourned the case sine die pending a high court decision on Virbhadra Singh’s petition.
“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 trial court order had said.
Elected five times as chief minister of Himachal Pradesh, Virbhadra Singh resigned as the union minister for micro, small and medium enterprises next day after the framing of charges in a 23-year-old corruption case.