Seven months after they were taken into custody as co-accused in the second generation (2G) spectrum allocation case, the Supreme Court Wednesday granted bail to five corporate executives on a surety of Rs.5 lakh each.
The five are Sanjay Chandra of Unitech Wireless, Vinod Goenka of Swan Telecom as well as Reliance Group’s Gautam Doshi, Surendra Pipara and Hari Nair. They are among the 14 individuals accused in the case, led by former telecom minister A. Raja.
An apex court bench of Justice G.S. Singhvi and Justice H.L. Dattu said the five would be released on furnishing the surety to the satisfaction of the trial court, and that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) could seek a modification if the bail is misused.
Their trial is being held by a special CBI court, presided over by Judge O.P. Saini.
The five executives had challenged the earlier judgment and common order of the Delhi High Court delivered May 23 in which it had rejected their bail pleas, due to the magnitude of the offence and gravity of the accusations against them.
The five, however, contended in the apex court that the rejection of bail by the high court was bad in law and that their continued incarceration amounted to a pre-trial punishment, which violated their constitutional right.
“The courts below committed a grave infraction of the Article 21 of the Constitution as there is no evidence that the petitioner may frustrate the trial by tampering with the witnesses or the records.”
Their petitions said they were in no way connected in influencing the fixing of the allegedly low price for spectrum, revising the cut-off date for allocation of airwaves on a first-come-first-served basis or any manipulation.
The three Reliance executives contended that the trial court had failed to appreciate that there was no material on record whatsoever to show that they had any role in the transfer of control of Swan Telecom to the Dynamix Balwas Group, as alleged.
The probe agency had filed the first set of charges April 2 in which it had named as accused Raja, his former personal secretary R.K. Chandolia, former telecom secretary Siddhartha Behura, Swan Telecom’s Shahid Usman Balwa, Goenka and Chandra.
It had also named as accused Reliance Group’s Doshi, Pipara and Nair, besides three companies – Unitech Wireless, Swan Telecom and Reliance Telecom.
The supplementary charges April 25 then included Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi, Kalaignar TV chief Sharad Kumar, Cineyug Film`s Karim Morani, and the directors of Kusegaon, Asif Balwa and Rajeev B. Agarwal.
All the accused were taken into judicial custody and lodged in Tihar Jail here.
Raja had resigned Nov 14 as the communications minister after it came to light that the official auditor had accused that his actions on spectrum allocation had resulted in a presumptive loss of several billion dollars to the exchequer.
He was arrested by the probe agency in the national capital Feb 2, along with Behura and Chandolia, while Shahid Balwa was arrested from Pune Feb 8. Then came the custodies of Asif Balwa and Agarwal.
Among others, the special court had April 20 rejected the bail pleas of Goenka, Chandra, Doshi, Nair and Pipara – and ordered judicial custody. On May 20, Kanimozhi and Kumar were also named accused and sent to jail, and 10 days later Morani also joined them.