Shimla, Sep 21: Former union minister Virbhadra Singh may not succeed in coming out clean in the corruption case pending against him since 2009 before the Himachal Pradesh assembly elections with the court fixing six days in November for recording of evidence.
Only about 60 prosecution witnesses may dispose by then in the trial going on in Shimla district court. Himachal Pradesh is likely to go to polls by November this year.
Special Judge B.L. Soni Friday fixed six days in November for recording evidence of 63 witnesses.
After hearing the arguments of both the prosecution and defence, the trial court fixed Nov 6 to 9 for recording evidence of 10 witnesses each day. The remaining 23 witnesses would be summoned for two days from Nov 16.
Seeking an early hearing, the defence insisted that CD and audio cassette evidences should not be brought at this stage.
However, Special Public Prosecutor Jiwan Lal Sharma insisted on recording the evidence of all the witnesses to fix the guilt against the accused.
Virbhadra Singh and his wife Pratibha Singh, a former MP, 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 chief minister in 1989.
According to the police, the couple was booked on the basis of an audio cassette released by Virbhadra Singh’s 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 Pratibha Singh and some industrialists, who have been identified by police, proposing to invest in the state.
The trial court, while framing the graft charges against the couple June 25, observed the “materials on record show existence of criminal conspiracy by Virbhadra Singh and Pratibha Singh”.
A day after the framing of charges, the septuagenarian leader resigned as the union minister for micro, small and medium enterprises.
Earlier in the case, Virbhadra Singh, who is seen in Congress circles as the one to head the state government if the party returns to power, appeared in the court Sep 7 and pleaded innocence and demanded a speedy trial.
The court in the last hearing Sep 15 refused to cancel his bail on the prosecution’s plea that he was influencing witnesses.