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.

SC agrees to hear Mittal’s plea against summons

The petition of the Bharti Airtel chairman Sunil Mittal  has been accepted by the Supreme Court to challenging a special court’s summons to him to appear before it as an accused in the 2G spectrum allocation case here in New Delhi.

The bench headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir posted the matter to 8 April.
Special court judge O.P. Saini had summoned Mittal to appear before him on 11 April on the grounds that as the head of BhartiAirtel when the alleged irregularities in spectrum allocation happened, he was responsible for his company’s actions and had knowledge of the allocation.
Saini has also summoned Essar Group vice-chairman Ravi Ruia, who was then a director in one of accused companies, Sterling Cellular Ltd, and Asim Ghosh, then managing director of accused firm Hutchison Max Telecom Pvt. Ltd.
Their names were not mentioned in the chargesheet filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation that’s probing the case. But Saini ruled that Mittal, Ruia and Ghosh were “prima facie” in “control of affairs” of their companies.
“As such, they represented the directing mind and will of companies and their state of mind was that of the companies,” the judge had said, adding, “They are/were ‘alter-ego’ of their respective companies.”
On 21 December, the CBI filed a chargesheet against former telecom secretary Shyamal Ghosh and Bharti, Hutchison and Sterling (now part of Vodafone India Ltd), but didn’t name any individuals.