In a reprieve to chief minister Virbhadra Singh, the Himachal Pradesh high court on Wednesday dismissed the petition filed by a former IAS officer, SM Katwal, against the orders to acquit him and his wife Pratibha Singh in the controversial “compact disc case”.
Upholding the judgment delivered by a special judge, a single bench comprising justice Dharam Chand Chaudhary dismissed Katwal’s plea seeking condonation of delay of 96 days in filing an appeal along with the main petition.
After hearing the arguments the court reserved judgment. “On merits also no case is found to be made out against the accused and respondents. Therefore, there is no merit in this petition and the same is accordingly dismissed,” read the judgment, adding, “Consequently, the petitions for seeking leave to appeal and the appeal itself shall also stand dismissed.”
The court further ruled: “I find no substance in the submissions that the witnesses were given up for extraneous consideration or with mala fide intention to help the accused persons. Otherwise also, it is for the public prosecutor to decide as out of the witnesses cited in the final report, who is to be examined in the court and who is to be given up.”
The court also said the petition did not disclose sufficient cause as required for condonation of 96 days’ delay, as occurred in filing the appeal. It also ruled that expiry of the limitation prescribed for filing the appeal had resulted in a valuable right in favour of the accused-respondents. “The same cannot be taken away on such grounds, which were not only vague and absurd, but false also,” it said.
On December 24, 2012, a day before Virbhadra was sworn in as chief minister of the state for the sixth time, a trial court acquitted him and his wife of corruption charges. Katwal had filed the appeal before the high court challenging the orders passed by the court of BL Soni, special judge (forests), Shimla on December 24, 2012 in a corruption case involving an audio CD allegedly containing conversation of Virbhadra and his wife with an IAS officer, Mohinder Lal (now dead) for obtaining monetary advantages from private companies.