Less than 24 hours before taking oath as Himachal Pradesh chief minister for the sixth time, Congress leader Virbhadra Singh got a major reprieve as a Shimla court acquitted him and and his wife Pratibha Singh in a corruption case.
Special Judge B.L. Soni, while pronouncing the 21-page order, in a jam-packed court said that the “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.”
Soni said there was also no evidence of any misconduct on the part of Virbhadra Singh.
Defence counsel Shrawan Dogra told reporters that not even a single witness out of 39 examined supported the prosecution evidence.
The prosecution had filed the charge sheet against the couple in October 2010.
Virbhadra Singh and Pratibha Singh were booked by the state 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 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, who have been identified by police, proposing to invest in the state.