Ruckus in Himachal assembly on Virbhadra graft issue


Shimla: Congress legislators Thursday stalled the proceedings of the Himachal Pradesh assembly and staged a walkout over the government’s clarification over the corruption cases filed against union Steel Minister Virbhadra Singh and his wife Pratibha Singh.

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Raising the issue after question hour, Leader of Opposition Vidya Stokes asked Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal to clarify his statements to the media that he had no information about the registration of the case against Singh and his wife.

She alleged that the government was being vindictive against the opposition.

“I can’t say whether it was (the registration of the case) out of vengeance or not, but it has surely been done for political gains as the by-elections to the two assembly seats in Himachal Pradesh are around the corner. The BJP government has not been fair to us,” Stokes said.

Replying to Stokes’ charges, Dhumal denied there was “any political move” in it and said the law should be allowed to take its own course.

Dhumal gave a detailed reply about the case’s process from the day an audio-CD was released by former Congress minister Vijai Singh Mankotia May 28, 2007, and a vigilance inquiry ordered into the matter by the then Congress government.

He said when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government assumed office in December 2007, there were complaints that there was no progress in the vigilance inquiry.

“On May 2, 2008, the statement of former IAS (Indian Administrative Service) officer Mohinder Lal was recorded and on May 7, 2008, statement of former IAS officer S.M. Katwal was also recorded. Following this, the CD was sent for authentication of voices at Central Forensic Science Laboratory in Chandigarh. In August, the laboratory report said that the voices matched those of Virbhadra Singh and Pratibha Singh,” Dhumal said.

“The law and home department examined the matter therein, and in the meantime, certain people started asking the details about the case through the Right to Information Act,” he added.

As state Congress chief Kaul Singh Thakur got up to respond, Speaker Tulsi Ram said the issue could be discussed later and asked the opposition to give a notice for it.

This agitated the Congress legislators and they staged a protest walkout from the assembly.

The Himachal Pradesh police have filed corruption cases against Virbhadra Singh and his wife Pratibha Singh. The complaint against him is for misuse of official position and criminal misconduct when he was chief minister in 1989.

“Virbhadra Singh and his wife Pratibha Singh were booked Monday night by the state vigilance and anti-corruption bureau under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. They were booked under sections related to misuse of official position and criminal misconduct,” Inspector General of Police (Vigilance) S.R. Mardi said.

He said they were booked on the basis of an audio CD released by Mankotia, a political rival of the Congress leader, in 2007. In the CD, Virbhadra Singh was heard referring to some monetary transactions on phone with former IAS officer Mahinder Lal, who is now dead. The CD also contained recordings of his wife, a former MP from the state’s Mandi constituency.

According to a statement released by the vigilance bureau on the day of registration of the case, the couple has been booked on the complaint of Katwal on the basis of the CD released by Mankotia.