Shimla: With prime witness in the case under Prevention of Corruption Act slapped on union steel minister Virbhadra Singh, made out on the basis of telephonic conversation recordings in an audio CD, having turned hostile, the prosecution case stands significantly weakened though the end game is not over yet.
Before heading for a winter break, the Himahcal Pradesh High Court division bench of Justice RB Misra and Justice Surinder Singh on Friday, in a petition by 82 year old Prem Chand Jain about deleting his name as a witness in the corruption case, served notices on principal secretary home and investigating officer Daya Sagar. The matter has been listed for 3rd March.
Jain, a former vice-president of Gujarat Ambuja cements company, petitioned the court that his name has been included as a witness on the basis of a fabricated statement attributed to him by investigator Daya Sagar about having been a â€˜fixer, conduitâ€™ for arranging a meeting between Suresh Neotia, chairman of Ambuja cements, and Virbhadra Singh, then chief minister of the state, when bribe money was alleged to have been paid.
Though Jain does acknowledge having been questioned by the investigating officer on 25 March, 2010, at his Delhi residence but he denies knowledge about incident said to have taken place in 1989, when he only visited Himachal for the first time in 1994 and took charge of the Darlaghat cement plant in 1995.
Learning about him being named a witness in the case from a newspaper report, Jain adds that he obtained a copy of the prosecution statement attributed to him under RTI.
Since the trial court had not powers to delete his name as a witness in the case, Jain petitions that he has been forced to move the high court for getting his name dropped in the high profile matter.
Taking the setback into the stride, a senior vigilance officer on conditions of anonymity told My Himachal News, â€œWitnesses do turn hostile. We did not fabricate the statement or pressurize Jain to testify against the accused.â€
He added, â€œThe case does not hinge on the sole testimony of Jain, there are other documentary evidences, witnesses and circumstantial evidences, which will be revealed in the trial court.â€
Sources in the prosecution department revealed that alarmed by Jain turning hostile, they could move an application for bail cancellation, granted to Virbhadra and his wife Pratibha Singh, in the case on 17.12.2010 on the grounds that as a union minister he was in a position to influence and win over witnesses.
Based on investigations carried out into alleged illegal money transactions said to have taken place two decades ago, which can be heard in a recorded telephonic conversation made public by Vijay Singh Mankotia, a former cabinet colleague of Virbhadra, releasing the contentious CD at a media conference in May 2007, the corruption case fraught with political implications was registered on 3.8.2008.