Two key witness turn hostile – Virbhadra CD Case further weakened

Shimla: The corruption case slapped on former chief minister Virbhadra Singh and his wife Pratibha Singh weakened further as two high profile prosecution witnesses in open court denied that they had made any testimony before the investigation agency about having bribed their way to obtain clearances for industrial projects.

Before the court of special judge BL Soni, retired octogenarian prosecution witness Kapil Mohan, owner of the Mohan Meakin business, today denied that any illegal money was paid to avert installation of an effluent treatment plant at the Solan brewery.

Mohan said that no investigating officer had visited him and recorded his testimony which the prosecution was relying upon in the case.

Special public prosecutor Jiwan Lal pointed out that the Solan brewery had been asked to install a treatment plant in 1983 and a notice had been served in 1989 by the state pollution control board that the water and electricity connection would be severed unless it was done so at the earliest.

The prosecution had produced Mohan as a witness holding that he had authorized an employee HN Handa to bribe the authorities for avoiding an investment of about Rs 6 crore involved in installing the treatment plant. However, the key witness in the case denied any such had ever happened.

The other witness who was declared hostile was PC Jain, an employee of Gujarat Ambuja cement, whom the prosecution claimed had handed over Rs 3 lakhs to the Virbhadra Singh at Himachal Bhawan in presence of Ambuja cement chairman Suresh Neotia in 1989 for obtaining clearance for setting up a cement plant in the state.

Another Rs 2 lakhs was given to Pratibha Singh, the prosecution claimed in a testimony attributed to have been recorded at Jain’s residence by the investigation team.

In court Jain denied that he had recorded any statement before the investigation team but on cross-examination, the witness accepted that a police team had visited him at his residence who were offered tea.

Implicating the former chief minister, the prosecution have stated in court that  “as per procedure prescribed, approval of the cement plant was to be accorded by the subcommittee of four ministers but the accused accorded approval without obtaining consent of two ministers.

On Friday, prime witness Major Vijay Singh Mankotia had partially turned hostile when he caused doubts to arise about authenticity of the voice in two decade old recorded telephone conversation. Mankotia said that he was of the opinion that the voice in a recorded conversation was that of Virbhadra Singh and his wife Pratibha Singh who are heard to be talking to deceased bureaucrat Mohinder Lal. Earlier, Mankotia was categorical that it was the voice of the former chief minister.

Before the judge adjourned the hearing and posted the case for December 1, the prosecution today also recorded the witnesses of two police officials, Daljeet Thakur, then SP vigilance bureau and head constable Jagdeep Mokta, who were involved with the investigation of the case.

Of the total 61 witnesses, 23 have testified in court and the prosecution had decided not to summon another 10 in the case. The rest are still to present themselves before the judge.

After the prosecution had filed a charge sheet before the trial court in October 2010, the special judge had framed charges in the case on June 25, 2012.

As Editor, Ravinder Makhaik leads a team of media professionals at Hill Post. Spanning a career of over two decades in mass communication, as a Documentary Filmmaker, TV journalist, Print Media journalist and with Online & Social Media, he brings with him a vast experience. He lives in Shimla.

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