An FIR has been registered against Union Steel Minister Virbhadra Singh and his wife Pratibha Singh by the Himachal Pradesh Anti-Corruption Bureau on charges of misuse of their official position and criminal misconduct in 2007. Singh has rubbished the charges.
The FIR registered against the duo relates to an audio CD released by former state minister Vijay Singh Mankotia claiming it contained the voices of Singh and his wife talking to retired IAS officer Mohinder Singh.
"The FIR is a cheap gimmick which shall collapse under its own weight. It is another desperate move to damage me and the Congress party through false and baseless accusations and unscrupulous vilification," Singh said in New Delhi adding it was an act of political vendetta against him by the state government.
After getting government approval, the FIR under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 was registered on Monday night, the state vigilance bureau said.
The case was registered on the complaint of a retired IAS officer S M Katwal on the basis of the CD released by Mankotia in 2007, it added.
Director General of Police (State Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau) D S Manhas told PTI that the case was registered against Singh and his wife after getting permission from the state home and law departments.
Singh said the CD has been in the air for more than two years. "If any such CD in fact exists, it is certainly an exercise in fabrication and doctoring," he said.
The minister put out a three-para statement shortly after the state government made it public that an FIR has been lodged against him.
Singh said he had already filed a criminal complaint against Mankotia, who initially released the CD at a press conference at Dharamshala in May, 2007. Mankotia was summoned by Chief Judicial Magistrate, Shimla, where the matter is pending.
'The desperate act of the state government is nothing but an act of political vendetta. The first time this CD was released, Prem Kumar Dhumal (Chief Minister) was going to contest the Lok Sabha elections in 2007. Now the Vidhan Sabha by-elections are imminent. It seems the BJP remembers this CD only before elections.'.
Mankotia, who served as a minister in Singh's previous government in Himachal Pradesh (2003-07) but was later removed on the ground of pruning of the state cabinet, had released an audio CD on the eve of by-election to Hamirpur Parliamentary constituency in July 2007 alleging Singh and his wife spoke to retired IAS officer Mohinder Lal (who now has passed away) about money exchange.
The issue figured prominently in the poll at that time when Dhumal had won his seat by over 80,000 votes. Singh, five times CM of the hill state, had vehemently denied the charge.
As part of investigation, the CD was sent for forensic test in the CFSL laboratory, which confirmed Singh's voice in the CD, sources in the state vigilance and anti-corruption bureau said.
Mankotia had also filed a writ petition in the Himachal Pradesh High Court seeking action against Singh and his wife in the alleged corruption case as contained in the audio CD released by him.
He was later expelled from the Congress and became state convenor of BSP on the eve of HP assembly in 2007. He had also demanded brain mapping test of Singh in the CD case.
Mankotia, who lost assembly election from Dharamsala on BSP ticket later announced that he was quitting politics. When contacted Dhumal told PTI that law will take its own course in the case.