New Delhi: Union Minister Virbhadra Singh on Tuesday resigned in the wake of a Himachal Pradesh court framing corruption charges against him.

Singh, a former H P Chief Minister, quit on moral grounds after being slapped with charges of conspiracy and corruption in a 23-year-old case, sources close to him said.

The 78-year-old Union Minister for Small, Micro and Medium Industries handed over his resignation to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

He had met Congress President Sonia Gandhi last evening and had dismissed as "concocted" the evidence against him in the infamous CD case.

"The evidence is concocted. The CD has not been authenticated. They have not compared my voice," he had said.

Asked on Monday whether he would resign, he said, "I don't care for my office at all. I don't want to embarrass my party and the Prime Minister. As and when the occasion arises, certainly I will take appropriate action".

Asked about the resignation, AICC general secretary in-charge for Himachal Pradesh Birender Singh said the party had not asked him to resign and if anything has been done, it would have been done on his own by the Minister.

The resignation of Singh, a five time Chief Minister, has come just a few months ahead of the Assembly elections in his native state.

The state is currently being run by the BJP.

"I have given my papers to the Prime Minister. Now it is up to him to forward it," Virbhadra Singh said.

Charges framed    

Charges were framed against 78-year-old leader and his wife Pratibha Singh 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.
   
Special Judge B L Soni, who had reserved orders on June 6, said sufficient evidence existed for framing of charges against Singh and his wife.
   
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 and some industrialists regarding monetary transactions for them to invest in the state.
   
They were booked in the case on August 3, 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.

'Allegations totally fabricated'   

Singh rubbished the allegations. He said the case was "totally fabricated" by the BJP government in the state which is "after my blood".
   
"This is a concocted, totally fabricated case. The CD is not authenticated. They have not compared my voice. I don't care for my office at all. I don't want to embarrass my party and my Prime Minister," he told reporters in Shimla when asked about the court order.
   
The CD pertaining to graft case against Singh was also played in the court during the hearing. Singh was also purported to have demanded more money during his talk with the IAS officer.
   
Public prosecutor Jiwan Lal Sharma said that the charges have been framed but the trial would start only after the matter pending in high court was disposed off.
   
A division bench of the High Court, comprising Chief Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice V K Ahuja had on January 7 last declined to give any relief to the Singh and his wife on their plea to quash the case or refer it to CBI and stay the proceedings in the trial court and asked them to appear before the trial court.
   
The bench had said that "the order of the trial court of October 23, 2010, summoning the accused to appear before the court was final and the petitioners have to face the next stage of consideration of charge" and added that merely consideration of charge did not mean that charges have been framed.

(Agencies)

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