Virbhadra, wife get clean chit in graft case

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SummaryCongress leader Virbhadra Singh and his wife Pratibha were acquitted of charges of corruption.

A day before he takes oath as the chief minister for the sixth time, Congress leader Virbhadra Singh and his wife Pratibha were on Monday acquitted of charges of corruption and misuse of public office framed by a Shimla court in June. His wife is a co-accused in the controversial audio-CD case.

The court order was announced on Monday evening after Special Judge (anti-corruption) B L Soni completed recording of evidence in the case filed against Virbhadra and Pratibha by the state Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau in 2009 — a few days after the veteran Congress leader was inducted into the Union Cabinet.

Virbhadra and his wife were present in the court along with lawyers R S Cheema and Shravan Dogra. They were all smiles while coming out of the crowded court complex around 5.15 pm. “It was a fabricated and false case .The court has acquitted me of all the charges. I have great faith in the judiciary which has always come to my rescue whenever my political rivals, especially the BJP, has tried to frame me in false cases,” Virbhadra said.

Cheema added, “Virbhadra and Pratibha Singh have been acquitted of the charges by the honourable court. Most important thing is that the entire hearing/ recording of evidence took place in the hostile regime of the BJP. Tomorrow, your chief minister can take oath with a clean slate.”

Earlier, the court examined three prosecution witnesses, including retired IAS officer S M Katwal, who had filed a petition in the high court seeking registration of case by the CBI against Virbhadra on the controversial audio CD.

In all, 39 prosecution witnesses appeared before the court during the trial, which started in September after Virbhadra requested the court to expedite the trial since his 50-year-long political career was at stake.

A major turn in the case came when Major (retd) Vijai Singh Mankotia, who had released the controversial CD, decided to bury his hatchet with Virbhadra ahead of the Assembly polls and joined the Congress to contest from Shahpur. He appeared in the court as a witness and declined to confirm the authenticity of the CD and its source.

Two prime witnesses, Brigadier (retd) Kapil Mohan of the Mohan Meakins and former Gujarat Ambuja Cement vice-president P C Jain, denied having paid bribe to Virbhadra and his wife.

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