He is the prime witness in the CD case against the Congress leader

The prime witness in the Virbhadra Singh CD case, Major Vijai Singh Mankotia, on Friday identified the voice samples of the former Union Minister and his wife Pratibha Singh after the original cassette was played in the Court of Special Judge B.L. Soni here.

Major Mankotia, who earlier declared categorically in his statements that these were the apparent voices of Mr. Singh and his wife, said, “In my opinion and as a layman [I] understand the voices are of Mr. Virbhadra Singh and his wife Pratibha Singh”.

He admitted that an anonymous caller had, in the second week of May 27, left a packet at his door containing the controversial cassette, and that he revealed this fact at a press conference on May 28, 2007. But he said he was unaware of who produced hundreds of CDs, copied from the original, which were being played all over Himachal Pradesh then. He said the original cassette had remained in his possession for at least a year before it was given to the police and finally to the CFS Laboratory, Chandigarh, on May 21, 2008.

Major Mankotia was leading a movement against corruption and faced suspension from the Congress when the issue of the controversial CD cropped up. But just before the Assembly elections this month, he was readmitted to the party and given ticket to contest from his traditional constituency of Shahpur in Kangra. He was even seen campaigning jointly with Mr. Singh.

Special Public Prosecutor Jiwan Lal Sharma said Major Mankotia largely confirmed his earlier statements against Mr. Singh and his wife, and he could not be described as a hostile witness as he had not denied the main facts recorded by the investigating agency when the audio CD and cassette were handed over to the prosecution. Major Mankotia’s statement before the court was significant as he had all along been insisting that the telephonic conversations of monetary transactions were that of the couple and a bureaucrat.

Mr. Singh along with his wife was booked by the State police on August 3, 2009 under the Prevention of Corruption Act for alleged misuse of his official position and criminal misconduct when he was Chief Minister in 1989.

According to the police, the couple were booked on the basis of an audio cassette released by Major Mankotia in 2007. The cassette purportedly contained telephonic conversations of monetary transactions between Mr. Singh and Mahendra Lal, an IAS officer, since dead.

It also allegedly contained voices of Ms. Pratibha Singh and some industrialists, who were proposing to invest in the State, and were identified by the police.

The trial court, while framing the graft charges against the couple on June 25, observed that the material on record showed the existence of a criminal conspiracy by Mr. Singh and Ms. Singh.

A day after the framing of charges, the septuagenarian leader resigned as Union Minister. But he was sent to the State later to head the Congress in the just concluded elections.