Indian cabinet minister quits after graft case

An Indian cabinet minister resigned Tuesday after a state court charged him with corruption, in a further embarrassment for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's scandal-tainted government.

"I have given my (resignation) papers to the prime minister," Virbhadra Singh, the minister for micro, small and medium industries, told reporters.

The move came a day after a court in Himachal Pradesh charged Singh and his wife with conspiracy and corruption in a 23-year-old case related to one of his five terms as chief minister of the northern state.

The couple have denied all the charges and the ruling Congress party stressed that Singh's decision to quit was not an admission of wrongdoing.

"Virbhadra Singh has taken moral responsibility and resigned but it does not mean that he is guilty. Guilt has not been proven," said party spokesman Janardan Dwivedi.

Although the case is an old one, the charges against the minister are a further blow to the image of India's ruling coalition which has been embroiled in a series of corruption scandals.

The most high profile case involved former telecom minister A. Raja, who quit in November 2010 over the sale of second-generation (2G) telecoms licences at far below their commercial value to selected companies.

Raja was later arrested and is currently on trial.

Reacting to Singh's resignation, a spokesman for the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party said there was "corruption from top to bottom" in the coalition government.

In six decades since independence only one senior Indian politician, Rao Shiv Bahadur Singh, has been convicted of graft and served a jail term -- for taking a bribe back in 1949.

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