The Himachal Pradesh High Court Friday issued notice to Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, his wife Pratibha Singh and the state on a petition seeking condoning of delay in filing a plea against a lower court order which acquitted the couple in a 2012 corruption case.Justice D.C. Chaudhary passed these orders on the application of state Subordinate Services Selection Board's former chairman S.M. Katwal for condonation of delay in filing appeal against the orders of the Special Judge (Forests) in Shimla.The court, in its first hearing, has asked the respondents to file reply by April 17.Katwal had challenged the trial court orders dated Dec 24, 2012, a day before Virbhadra Singh's swearing in as the chief minister for the sixth time.The state police booked Virbhadra Singh and Pratibha Singh, a parliamentarian, 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.
In 2009, the Bharatiya Janata Party government was in power in the state.According to police, the couple was booked on the basis of an audio cassette released by Virbhadra Singh's once 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, identified by the police, proposing to invest in the state.The petitioner alleged the state had not filed appeal against the orders as it is headed by Virbhadra Singh himself, an accused in the case.
Special Judge B.L. Soni, while pronouncing the 21-page acquittal order of Virbhadra Singh and his wife, had said "the prosecution has failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt"."There is no evidence of exercising personal influence by Pratibha Singh on Virbhadra Singh for getting cleared matters related to Mohan Meakin Ltd. (brewery in Solan town) and Gujarat Ambuja Ltd."He said there was also no evidence of any misconduct on the part of Virbhadra Singh, who was present in the court when the judgment was delivered.Defence counsel Shrawan Dogra had told reporters that not even a single witness of the 39 examined supported the prosecution evidence.The prosecution had filed the charge sheet against the couple in October 2010.