In a major setback to Union Minister for Small, Micro and Medium Industries Virbhadra Singh a trial court here on Monday charged him with bribery and criminal misconduct in the infamous CD case, under Sections 120 B of IPC and Sections 7, 11, 13 (1) (d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA).

Special Court Judge B.L. Soni, who had reserved orders on June 6, said sufficient evidence existed for framing of charges against Virbhadra Singh and his wife Pratibha Singh, a former Member of Parliament (MP) from Mandi, Himachal Pradesh. She has also been charged under Section 120 B (dealing with conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Section 9 of PCA.

Since neither of the accused were present in court, the charges could not be read out and explained to them, the Court of Special Judge (Forest) said in its detailed orders.

Special prosecutor Jiwan Lal said the matter would now be decided by the Himachal Pradesh High Court as the accused had obtained a prior stay on the framing of charges. In the previous hearings on May 31 and June 6, defence and prosecution argued over the framing of charges against the couple under the PCA on the basis of an audio cassette, later changed into a CD, purportedly containing Mr. Singh and his wife’s voices referring to some monetary transactions from industrialists. The CD was played as part of evidence in the court.

Defence counsel had disputed the authenticity of the cassette. “There was no cut and paste of voices in the cassette. Moreover, the Chandigarh and Hyderabad-based Central Forensic Science Laboratory authenticated that the voices of Virbhadra and his wife matched with those in the cassette,” argued the prosecution.