SC to hear pleas of Sunil Mittal, Airtel tomorrow

Bharti Airtel’s plea challenging the Delhi High Court order giving its nod to the Centre’s decision holding the 3G roaming pact of the telecom major as illegal will be hear by the bench headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir.

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) on March 15 had issued a notification restraining Bharti from providing 3G intra-circle roaming facilities in seven circles where it did not have the spectrum and also levied a penalty of Rs 350 crore (Rs 50 crore per circle) for violating the licence terms and conditions.

The telecom major has challenged the decision of the division bench of the high court which had set aside its single judge’s March 18 order staying the DoT notification.

While challenging the special 2G court’s order summoning him as an accused, Mittal has contended that criminal liability cannot be fastened on an individual for alleged acts of a firm.

“The special judge failed to consider the settled law in the context of vicarious criminal liability of Managing Directors/Directors and other officers of corporations that in the absence of specific statutory provisions making individual actors liable, there shall be no vicarious criminal liability imposed on any individual for acts of any corporation,” mentioned in the petition filed by Mittal.

“Commission of an offence by raising a legal fiction or by creating a vicarious liability in terms of provisions of a statute must be expressly stated. The Managing Director or Directors of a company cannot be said to have committed an offence merely because they are holders of offices,” according to it.

Besides Mittal, special CBI judge O P Saini had also summoned two others — Essar Group promoter Ravi Ruia, who was then a director in one of accused company Sterling Cellular Ltd, and Asim Ghosh, then MD of accused firm Hutchison Max Telecom Pvt Ltd — whose name were not mentioned in the charge sheet.

Telecom scam:CBI chided for not naming firms’ execs

Delhi High court has grilled the CBI for only “blaming” government servants and not naming any company officials in connection with the charge sheet against Airtel, Vodafone and others for alleged irregularities in the allocation of additional spectrum to them during the NDA regime

“In a conspiracy, there must be two parties. You (CBI)are blaming only the government servants. Why not the private persons? Who did the conspiracy with the government servants?” special CBI judge OP Saini asked.

On being quizzed by the judge, CBI prosecutor KK Goyal said they had tried their best to find out if any company officials were part of the conspiracy but they could not find anybody’s name.

“We could not find out anybody’s name. We tried to find out who are the persons who instigated this but we could not find out. We tried our best,” the prosecutor said.

The court, after hearing CBI’s arguments, reserved its order for March 19 on the issue of taking cognisance of the charge sheet.

During the hearing, CBI told the court that no resolution was passed by these companies for applying for additional spectrum.

The court had earlier directed the CBI to place before it documents relating to resolution passed by the three firms, including Airtel and Vodafone, for seeking additional spectrum during the NDA regime.

The CBI had on December 21 last year filed a charge sheet in which former telecom secretary Shyamal Ghosh and three telecom firms – Bharti Cellular Ltd, Hutchison Max Pvt Ltd (now known as Vodafone India Ltd) and Sterling Cellular Ltd (now known as Vodafone Mobile Service Ltd) – have been named as accused.

In the 57-page charge sheet, the CBI has booked all the accused for the offences of criminal conspiracy (120-B) of the IPC and under provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

The court had earlier granted over two weeks additional time to CBI to submit documents sought from it in the case.

The court had told the CBI that these telecom firms must have approached the government first for seeking additional spectrum and they must have also passed a resolution in this regard.

It had also told CBI that the case is about the pricing dispute over additional spectrum and the agency should file the documents relating to passing of any such resolution by these companies.

The CBI, in its charge sheet, has named the three telecom companies as accused in the case in which DoT had allegedly allocated additional spectrum resulting in a loss of Rs. 846 crore to the exchequer.

The CBI has not named Jagdish Rai Gupta, a former deputy director general (VAS) cell of DoT and a former director of BSNL, who figured in the FIR, as accused in the case saying “no evidence attributing any criminality on his part or his involvement in the alleged offence has surfaced during the investigation.”

Regarding Ghosh, the CBI had said that in conspiracy with the then telecom minister Pramod Mahajan and the accused telecom firms, he abused his official position to show undue favour to the firms causing a loss of Rs. 846.44 crore to the exchequer.

The CBI, in its charge sheet, had said that the decision regarding allocation of additional spectrum to these telecom firms was taken in “undue haste” in pursuance of the conspiracy hatched by Mahajan, Ghosh and these companies.

Mobile cos tell court they can’t provide call records

The special Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act Court has been told by the Tata Teleservices (Maharashtra) that it cannot provide call data records (CDR) to the accused of 2006 Mumbai train blasts case free.

The company told the court that its accumulated losses as of May 31, 2012 were Rs 3031.18 crore.

“If the cost of retrieving the CDRs is not allowed to be recovered, then the company which is already incurring huge losses, and ultimately its more than 4.5 lakh shareholders, would have to bear this cost,” said Prashant Padvale, the assistant manager, in an application.

Earlier four mobile service providers — Vodafone, Loop, Airtel and Tata — had filed application in the court seeking direction to the accused to pay a total of Rs 34 lakh for retrieving the CDRs.

But the defence lawyers said their clients would not be able to shell out the money, and it would not be in the interests of justice. As the prosecution was relying on CDRs, the defence must get them free, they argued.

Loop also filed an application today saying it is unable to bear the estimated cost of Rs 8 lakh for retrieving CDRs.

Earlier, the MCOCA court had rejected the demand of CDRs. When the accused moved the High Court, it directed the lower court to consider the demand afresh.

Seven coordinated blasts on Mumbai suburban trains on July 11, 2006 killed 188 people and injured 817 others. While ATS has arrested 13 persons, 15 accused are absconding.

Airtel to pay for harassing old subscriber

The New Delhi District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum imposed a fine of  Rs 25,000 on Bharti Airtel for harassing a post-paid subscriber.

Bharti Airtel has demanded fresh documents to verify his six-year-old connection and then stopping outgoing calls on his number.

The telecom major has been held guilty of rendering deficient service and causing harassment to complainant Manoj Kumar Sharma, a school teacher.

 Consumer court said “A post-paid connection is issued to subscribers only after the residential proof like passport, driving license, ration card and voter ID card are provided to the opposite party (Airtel), otherwise it could have never issued a post-paid connection to any subscriber”.

“It is a clear case of deficiency on the part of opposite party to harass the subscriber (Sharma) without any rhyme and reason. Opposite party is directed to pay (Sharma) Rs 25,000 as harassment, mental agony and litigation charges as the consumer (Sharma) has been suffering without any valid reasons since 2009,” the bench presided by C K Chaturvedi said.

 Manoj Kumar Sharma, a resident of Lodhi Road Complex here, in his complaint filed in October 2009 had said he had been using an Airtel post-paid connection for over six years when the firm’s service centre called him up and asked him to provide fresh set of documents for verifying his number.

 He had agreed and had asked them to send someone to collect the documents from his home but no one came, he had said in his complaint and added that Airtel then blocked all outgoing calls from his number without informing him.

 While in its written statement, Airtel replied it was acting as per the provisions of the Indian Telegraph Act and the TRAI guidelines.

 But the forum rejected the contention of Airtel by saying that its act was totally arbitrary.