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Virbhadra Singh becomes third minister in UPA-II to quit

Virbhadra Singh's decision came a day after the Himachal court framed charges of corruption and criminal misconduct against him and his wife Pratibha Singh in a 23-year-old case

 

New Delhi: Union Minister Virbhadra Singh resigned on Tuesday in the wake of a Himachal Pradesh court framing corruption charges against him, the third minister in United Progressive Alliance (UPA)-II to step down on similar grounds, reports PTI.

A five-time Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh, 78-year-old Singh, the Union Minister for Small, Micro and Medium Industries, met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at his Race Course Residence before announcing his resignation.

"I have given my papers to the Prime Minister," he said.

The Prime Minister has accepted his resignation and forwarded it to President Pratibha Patil, PMO sources said.

Virbhadra Singh, a veteran Congress leader, said he has resigned on moral grounds. "No one asked me to quit. This my moral duty as I did not want to embarrass my party, PM or government," he told reporters.

Singh's decision came a day after the Himachal court framed charges of corruption and criminal misconduct against him and his wife Pratibha Singh in a 23-year-old case, saying there was sufficient evidence to proceed against them.

The minister, who had met Congress chief Sonia Gandhi last evening, dismissed as "totally fabricated" the allegations against him.

He also sought to turn it into a political battle against the ruling BJP ahead of the Assembly elections in the state later this year.

Accusing the Prem Kumar Dhumal government of levelling "concocted" against him, Singh trained his guns at the Chief Minister, describing him as the "most corrupt and biggest lier in Himachal Pradesh".

"In the last 50 years, I have handled many portfolios like tourism and Steel and during my tenure nobody has questioned my integrity or that of my family," he said.

Singh said his resignation should not be seeing as an admission of guilt as he was going to fight the case to the logical conclusion.

He said the Chief Minister is turning Himachal into states like Punjab and Tamil Nadu, where political detractors are targeted.

"When we came to power, we thought we should not make HP like Punjab and Tamil Nadu where it has become a trend that whenever a new Government comes into power they start making charges on the ministers in the previous government," he added.

Singh is the third Union Minister to resign in UPA-II. Corruption allegations have already cost DMK leaders - A Raja and Dayanidhi Maran their cabinet posts.

Charges were framed against Singh and his wife under Section 120 B (conspiracy) of IPC and Sections 7,11 and 13 of Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA) dealing with bribery and criminal misconduct.

The case against Singh goes back to 1989 when he was Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh. The charges are based on an audio CD that purportedly contains a conversation with IAS officer Mohinder Lal during which they allegedly discussed kick-backs from industrialists who wanted to set up shop in the state.

They were booked in the case on 3 August 2009, on the basis of the CD released by his arch rival in the Congress and former minister Vijay Singh Mankotia in May 2007 and the prosecution filed the case in the court of special judge in October 2010.

While BJP insisted that the resignation has come after a "lot of public pressure", the Congress sought to project a moral high ground by saying that his guilt in the corruption case had not yet been established.

"Better late than never," BJP Spokesperson JP Nadda, who also hails from Himachal Pradesh, said.

AICC General Secretary Janardan Dwivedi said, "Virbhadra Singh has taken moral responsibility and resigned. A chargesheet has been filed. But it does not mean that he is guilty. Guilt has not been proven".

A combative Singh declared that he will fight the BJP tooth and nail.

"I will fight against them at every level...I am free from here (Centre) now I will give all my time," he said rejecting suggestions that the case has spoiled his chances of becoming the next chief minister.

Besides, he sought to project the case against him as an insult to the state.

"This is not the question of my respect, it is the question of Himachal Pradesh's respect," he said adding he has full trust in the court and the "people's court in the state".

He also dismissed the charges levelled by Team Anna against him and wondered as to why it was not seeing the corruption done by the Dhumal government.

He said he has already threatened to file a defamation case against Team Anna member Arvind Kejriwal.

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Sushil Kumar Shinde deposes before Adarsh panel

Former Chief Ministers Vilasrao Deshmukh and Ashok Chavan are scheduled to appear as witness on 27th June and 30th June, respectively, before the Commission

 

Mumbai: Union Power Minister and Maharashtra's former Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde on Monday deposed before the Adarsh Commission in connection with the Adarsh housing society scam, reports PTI.

Shinde was the chief minister of Maharashtra from 2001 to 2003 when he cleared many files including allotment of land to Adarsh.

The two-member Adarsh Commission probing the Adarsh society scam had issued notice to Shinde on 23rd June to appear before it today as a witness in the case.

Former Chief Ministers Vilasrao Deshmukh and Ashok Chavan are scheduled to appear as witness on 27th June and 30th June, respectively, before the Commission.

Earlier, Aditya Patil, who told the Commission that he was nephew of cabinet minister Jayant Patil deposed before the commission on Saturday.

He told the commission that former MLC and an accused Kanhaiyalal Gidwani had helped him get a flat in the society.

The scam pertains to alleged irregularities in construction and allotment of apartments in the 32-storeyed high rise, originally meant for families of Kargil war heroes, in the upmarket Colaba area in south Mumbai.

The Bombay High Court is monitoring the probe being conducted by CBI, Enforcement Directorate and Income Tax.

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Singur Act unconstitutional, says Calcutta High Court

Giving its verdict on an appeal by Tata Motors, the division bench observed that the President's assent had not been taken for the Act and as such it was void and unconstitutional

 

Kolkata: In a setback to West Bengal government led by Mamata Banerjee, the Calcutta High Court on Friday held the Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development Act, 2011, under which the state had vested land leased to Tata Motors, as unconstitutional and void, reports PTI.

Giving its verdict on an appeal by Tata Motors Ltd, a division bench comprising Justices Pinaki Chandra Ghosh and Mrinal Kanti Chaudhury observed that the President's assent had not been taken for the Act and as such it was void and unconstitutional.

The implementation of the order was, however, stayed for two months by the division bench to allow the aggrieved party to appeal before a higher court.

The division bench set aside the order of Justice IP Mukerji who had held the Act to be constitutional. It observed that the single bench had no jurisdiction to fill up loopholes left by the legislature.

The court also observed that what was done in Singur was acquisition of land by the said Act and as such it was void.

Tata Motors had challenged the order of the single bench of the Calcutta High Court, which had upheld the Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development Act, 2011, by which the West Bengal government vested the land leased to the company at Singur, before the division bench of the court.

Tata Motors had appealed against the order of Justice Mukerji, which was passed on 28th September last year. Justice Mukerji had held the Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development Act 2011 to be constitutional.

The court had, however, ordered on 28th September an unconditional stay of the judgement till November two to allow any aggrieved party to file an appeal, if it so desired.

Tata Motors had been leased 997 acres at Singur in Hooghly district, about 40 km from Kolkata, by the previous Left Front government for its Nano car project, billed as the cheapest car.

Trinamool Congress, which was then the main opposition in West Bengal, had demanded return of 400 acres to farmers unwilling to give land for the project.

Tata Motors had moved its Nano small car factory to Sanand in Gujarat in 2008 citing law and order problems, but had kept possession of the leased land at Singur.

After coming to power in May 2011, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had the Singur Act passed in the Assembly as one of her government's first major legislations.

Counsel for the state government Kalyan Bandyopadhyay, who is also a Trinamool Congress MP, said that the state would appeal against the order in the Supreme Court.

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