2G: Arguments on charges against Essar, Loop Thursday

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Thursday reiterated that Loop was a front company of the Essar Group and was used to acquire licences and spectrum for offering second generation (2G) telecom services.

Special Public Prosecutor U.U. Lalit, while advancing the probe agency’s argument on charge against Essar and Loop promoters, told CBI Special Judge O.P. Saini here that the basic case of the prosecution was that Essar Group violated the guidelines for grant of telecom services.

The Essar group, however, has denied any wrong doing. The hearing will continue Friday.

All accused can’t be tried for breach of trust: Balwa

Jailed Swan Telecom promoter Shahid Usman Balwa Monday told a special court here hearing the 2G spectrum allocation scam that all the 17 accused in the case cannot be charged with the offence of criminal breach of trust.

Balwa’s counsel Vikas Singh contended before the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Special Judge O.P. Saini that the spectrum was just a medium of communication.

It is not a property. It remains in the air. It is not like a mineral which my client will extract and will become its owner. It is not my property, said Singh.

The CBI sought framing of additional charges under Indian Penal Code’s section 409 (criminal breach of trust) against former communications minister A. Raja and other accused.

Balwa argued that Raja was not having a dominion over radio waves, therefore no offence of criminal breach of trust was made out.

Spectrum has been dealt with by the department of telecommunications (DoT) since 1995 and for the past 15 years neither the government nor DoT considered it as a commodity, he said.

The CBI, in its plea, said that Raja and two government servants had a dominion over valuable 2G spectrum in their respective capacities as public servants and they flouted law in award of licences, which made out a case of criminal breach of trust.

It also sought to try the remaining 14 accused, including DMK MP Kanimozhi and Balwa, under the same penal provision by making them a party to the alleged criminal conspiracy hatched by Raja and two other public servants.

Swan Telecom questions CAG role

Swan Telecom Thursday told a Delhi court that the CAG has “no authority to decide” the correct market value of radio frequency airwaves, a scarce national resource, to operate second generation (2G) mobile phone services.

The company, listed as an accused in the 2G scam, also rubbished the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) report on the allocation of airwaves.

“The CAG can recommend the implications of policy but the rest is a matter for the government to decide and not the CAG… it is not an authority to decide the correct market value of 2G,” Swan’s senior counsel Amit Desai told Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) special judge O.P. Saini.

He said that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) should not act as a “super board”.”It is outside the domain of the CBI to say that what policy should have been in place and if the CAG report is correct or not… the role of the agency is to collect evidence and not to give opinions.”

Desai said that CAG was an auditor and had the power to examine the policy, it could not recommend the rates at which the licences should have been sold.

The blame is that illegal entrants were given licences at rates below the market price. But who is questioning? The government who, according to the CBI case, is the main victim, is not questioning,” he said.

“The CAG is not the government and the government is not only concerned about revenue, it also looks into the social welfare and development of its people… there can’t be a uniform policy in all the sectors, said Desai.

He said that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) approved all the policies.He said that if no amendment in the policy and non-revision of rates was considered to be a criminal conspiracy then even the ex-TRAI chairman Nripendra Misra should be treated as a conspirator.

Misra was the one who recommended retaining the 2001 prices in 2007, whereas in 2006 he recommended auction for third generation (3G) mobile phone services, Desai said.

The TRAI chairman himself said that there was no need to raise the prices of the bands. He approved the policy. In that case, the CBI should also present him before the court, Desai said.

He said that even the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal approved the m policy.

Explaining why the prices of the spectrum were not revised, the counsel said: The purpose of the 2G spectrum was to bring in more competition and the government wanted to give a level playing field to all the new entrants, so the prices were not increased.

If I committed crime, so did Tatas: Chandolia

Targeting the Tatas and lobbyist Niira Radia, former communications minister A. Raja’s ex-personal secretary R.K. Chandolia Friday said if he could be accused in the 2G spectrum scam, then so should they.

Chandolia began his arguments in the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) special court by opposing the charges against him and saying he was a government official who was following the order of superiors.

“The deal took place between Radia and the Tatas, they are not in jail, and my client who is not involved is in the dock,” Chandolia’s counsel Vijay Aggarwal told CBI special judge O.P. Saini.

His counsel said: “If the crime is done by my client, then Tata and Radia are also on equal footing.”Chandolia’s counsel argued he just followed the orders of A. Raja. “It was Raja who took Niira Radia’s help… and my client just followed the orders,” said Chandolia’s counsel.

“Radia called the office that time, my client had picked up the phone and she wanted speak to Raja. As he was not there she asked him to tell Raja that the KTV problem has been sorted out,” said Aggarwal.

“My client only conveyed what happened, how can he be a conspirator?” he asked. The counsel also added there are no recorded conversations of Chandolia.The counsel further questioned the CBI’s role. “We all know that CBI is the most clean agency, but it does not have guts to touch the Tatas and Radia.”

Defending Chandolia, the counsel told the court that his client was a personal assistant and had no major role to play.”He was just assisting the minister in his day to day work and he was not supposed to apply his mind and he only did what his master (Raja) said…

“Can an assistant ask the master what decision have they made? How is he concerned and what is his role?” the counsel argued.Chandolia is lodged in Tihar jail along with Raja.

Government responsible for 2G mess, didn’t listen: Behura (Lead)

The government is responsible for the 2G “mess”, jailed former telecom secretary Siddhartha Behura said Wednesday, accusing the powers that be of not listening when he raised an objection.

“The entire government is responsible for the mess. My client raised the objection publicly and the government didn’t listen to him. He was bound to follow policies made by the government…he did his work as a public servant to implement policies of the government. He didn’t do anything wrong,” Behura’s counsel Aman Lekhi told CBI special judge O.P. Saini.

Behura began his arguments in the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) special court by opposing the framing of charges against him in the 2G spectrum case.

“If any minister does not agree with the decision taken by the council of ministers then the only choice left with the minister is to either resign or accept the majority decision,” his counsel said.

“A civil servant cannot oppose the decision, since at that point of time he will be accused of being a face of a political party,” Lekhi told the court.”Behura had no choice but to implement policy. Let down by the government, where will he go,” asked his counsel.

Behura’s statement on the government came a day after former communications minister A. Raja dragged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Home Minister P. Chidambaram into the imbroglio for the second time.

The counsel also raised questions on the role of Manju Madhwan, then member secretary (finance) telecom commission, and Dinesh Mathur, who was telecom secretary before Behura.

“Manju Madhwan was a part of the conspiracy as she did not place objections in the policy which was discussed on Dec 4, 2007. She kept quiet and did not object when she could have done that…..while Mathur also defended the policy on the same date and did not oppose it,” Lekhi said.

He also asked how people who could be conspirators were made witnesses.The counsel said, “If people who played a vital role are made witnesses then how can Behura be made an accused…..he should be a witness too.”

Behura was arrested Feb 2 for alleged involvement in the 2G scam. In the chargesheet filed April 2, he is accused of criminal conspiracy, cheating, forgery and criminal misconduct by a public servant.

Raja had Tuesday asked why Manmohan Singh had not constituted a group of ministers (GoM) for 2G spectrum allocation and said Chidambaram should be called as a witness in the case. A day earlier his lawyer said the spectrum transactions were approved by Chidambaram, who was then finance minister, in the presence of the prime minister.

2G scam: Morani’s bail plea dismissed

A Special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court here Monday rejected the anticipatory bail plea of Cineyug Films’ founder Karim Morani, named as co-conspirator of 2G spectrum allocation scam, saying his health report was normal.

“In view of the medical condition of the accused being normal and stable, I am satisfied that no case for anticipatory bail on medical grounds is made out. The application is without merit and same is dismissed,” CBI Special Judge O.P. Saini said.

Morani, who was exempted from personal appearance till now, will have to be present in court Tuesday.

Defence counsel Siddharth Luthra argued that Morani, 62, was suffering from various ailments for the last 31 years.

Luthra said Morani had undergone angioplasty in 1991, 1993 and 1997, and had open heart surgery in 2007.

He also said that Morani had received a sixth bypass graft and required reboring of his two major vessels. He had also been advised complete rest due to a chest pain.

“My client company is a big name in the field of music and entertainment. He has done a perfectly legal commercial transaction,” Luthra added.

Rejecting his bail plea, the court said that as per Mumbai’s J.J. Hospital’s report, Morani is stable.

Luthra had submitted the medical report from J.J. Hospital, as was demanded by the court May 10 when he was exempted from personal appearance due to ill-health.

Meanwhile, Lilavati Hospital and Research Centre in Mumbai has also described Morani’s condition as stable, with blood pressure at 120 by 70 mg, which is also normal, added the judge.

“I may also add that in case of need, proper medical facilities are available in Tihar Jail itself and if a prisoner requires any further treatment, he is immediately taken to Ram Manohar Lohia hospital or AIIMS (All India Institute of Medical Sciences),” he said.

“I may add that co-accused Surendra Pipara is already being provided best of medical facilities at AIIMS,” the judge said.

The CBI’s first chargesheet April 2 had named, besides former communication minister A. Raja, former telecom secretary Siddharth Behura, Swan Telecom promoter Shahid Balwa, Raja’s aide R.K. Chandolia, Swan Telecom’s Vinod Goenka, Unitech’s Sanjay Chandra and three executives of the Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group – Gautam Doshi, Hari Nair and Surendra Pipara.

In its April 25 supplementary chargesheet, the CBI named DMK chief M. Karunanidhi’s daughter Kanimozhi and Kalaignar TV managing director Sharad Kumar as co-conspirators after it traced an illegal money trail of Rs.214 crore in the scam.

The supplementary chargesheet also named Karim Morani as well as Asif Balwa and Rajiv B. Aggarwal of Kusegaon Realty.

The probe agency claims it has unearthed an illegal money trail that moved from Dynamix to Kusegaon and then on to Cineyug, all part of the DB Group, that promoted Swan Telecom, ending with Kalaignar TV, majority owned by Karunanidhi’s family.

Except for Morani and Pipara, who is in judicial custody at AIIMS here, all those named in the CBI chargesheets are lodged in Tihar Jail.

Kanimozhi’s bail plea verdict on May 20

In temporary relief for the politically battered first family of Tamil Nadu, a special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court Saturday deferred till May 20 its verdict on the bail plea of DMK MP Kanimozhi and Kalaignar TV chief Sharad Kumar in connection with their alleged involved in the spectrum case.

CBI Special Judge O.P. Saini, after seeing the crowd in the jampacked court room, said: “The court will pronounce its verdict on the bail plea of the duo on May 20.”

The court had reserved the order on their bail application May 6.

Kanimozhi was accompanied by her mother Rajathi Ammal and her husband Aravindan to mark her presence before the Judge Saini. DMK parliamentarian T.R. Balu was also present.

The CBI had named Kanimozhi, daughter of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi who suffered a rout in the assembly elections, and Sharad Kumar as co-conspirators in its April 25 supplementary chargesheet after it traced an illegal money trail of Rs.214 crore.

Asif Balwa and Rajiv B. Agarwal of Kusegaon Realty, also named as co-conspirator in the case, were also present in the court room.

The fifth co-conspirator, Cineyug Film’s Karim Morani was not present as he got exemption from personal appearance due to his ill health. However, he will have to appear before the court May 18.

The money trail allegedly moved from Dynamix to Kusegaon and then on to Cineyug — all part of the DB Group that promoted Swan Telecom – ending with the Karunanidhi family-run Kalaignar TV. The channel had earlier stated that the Rs.214 crore was a loan and paid back with interest.

DMK MP A. Raja has been accused of allowing the sale of spectrum licenses to telecom companies at low prices in 2008 when he was communications minister, allegedly causing huge losses to the exchequer. He is in jail.

Raja, his aide R.K. Chandolia, former telecom secretary Siddhartha Behura and Swan Telecom promoter Shahid Usman Balwa were present in the court room. They are charged with conspiring to sell 2G spectrum waves to select companies at rock bottom prices.

Vinod Goenka of Swan Telecom, Sanjay Chandra of Unitech and two officials of the Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group – Gautam Doshi and Hari Nair and – who were also named in the chargesheet were present in the court room.

Surendra Pipara of Reliance, who is in judicial custody, was not produced in the court room as he is undergoing treatment for a heart problem.