In a setback to Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh, the court of the judicial magistrate (first class), Una, on Monday framed charges in a criminal defamation case filed against him by SM Katwal, former chairman of the HP Subordinate Services Selection Board (HPSSSB).
Charges against Virbhadra were framed under sections 499 and 500 (both pertaining to criminal defamation) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for allegedly issuing defamatory statements against Katwal and the HPSSSB during election rallies held for the Guler byelection in 2004.
Katwal, who remained chairman of the board from 2000 to 2003, had filed two criminal defamation cases in 2005, alleging that he was defamed in speeches made by Virbhadra at public meetings.
He alleged in his petition that Virbhadra's statement that jobs were being auctioned and given to non-Himachalis through the HPSSSB were false and defamatory and had maligned his reputation.
The charges were read before Virbhadra's counsel as he (CM) was granted exemption from personal appearance for Monday by the court.
The judicial magistrate had issued summons to Virbhadra on August 16, 2005. Virbhadra later filed revision petitions in the sessions court, which quashed the orders on the ground that the complainant could not be called the person aggrieved as the imputation at the most could be said to be against the HPSSSB, and that too when the complainant was not its chairman.
Katwal had moved the Himachal Pradesh high court, challenging the judgment of the sessions court which quashed the judicial magistrate's order to issue summons to Virbhadra. The high court had on March 21, 2014, ordered re-trial in the defamation case.
The court has fixed October 12 as the next date of hearing in the case.