2G case: Raja, others told to reply to 1,700 questions

2G caseA special CBI court hearing the second generation (2G) spectrum case Thursday handed over 1,700 questions running into 824 pages to the accused, including former union minister A. Raja and DMK MP Kanimozhi.

Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) special court judge O.P. Saini said the questionnaire will help expedite the case, and posted the matter for April 21.

“Considering the nature of the case, it would be in the interest of justice and also convenient to the parties if a copy of the draft questionnaire is supplied to accused in advance to facilitate answering the questions by them and to expedite the case,” the court said.

Meanwhile, counsel of the accused requested the court to grant sufficient time to go through the draft. Granting the request, the court gave them time till April 21 to prepare the answers.

The questions are part of the recording of the statement of the accused.

The court had Nov 27, 2013 concluded the recording of statements of 153 people running into 4,400 pages.

Among the CBI witnesses who deposed in the court were former Raja aides, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India ex-chairman Nripendra Misra, former corporate lobbyist Niira Radia, former Reserve Bank of India governor D. Subbarao and DMK chief M. Karunanidhi’s wife Dayalu Ammal.

The special court was set up last year on the direction of the Supreme Court.

According to the government auditor, Raja was biased while distributing 2G mobile airwaves and operating licenses to telecom firms, causing a loss of up to Rs.1.76 lakh crore in revenue to the treasury.

All the accused, including Raja, are out on bail.

(Source:IANS)

2G: Court notice to DoT, CBI

bbDec 16 (IANS) A special court hearing the 2G case Monday issued notice to the CBI and the department of telecommunications (DoT) on a plea filed by Loop Telecom Ltd seeking directions for referring the matter to the Lok Adalat.

Special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Judge O.P. Saini issued notice to CBI and DoT and posted the matter for Feb 20, 2014.

Loop Telecom Limited filed a plea seeking the court’s direction for referring the matter to the Lok Adalat, a system of alternative dispute resolution that focuses on compromise between two parties, for “settlement”, saying the offences alleged against the firm were compoundable.

Loop and the Essar Group are facing charges of criminal conspiracy for cheating the department of telecommunications (DoT).

A third set of charges filed by the CBI in the 2G case alleged that promoters of the Essar Group were the real investors and beneficiaries of the spectrum and licenses issued to Loop Telecom, which was used as a front company by the Essar Group to acquire the 2G licenses and spectrum in 2008.

This has been denied by the accused.

(Source: IANS)

Mittal and Ruia 2G case: Hearing put off till July 31

A Delhi court Monday put off till July 31 the hearing on a 2G case in which Bharti Airtel chief Sunil Mittal and Essar Group promoter Ravi Ruia were summoned.

Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Special Judge O.P. Saini adjourned the case till July 31 after lawyers appearing for Mittal and Ruia informed the court that the matter was pending in the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court in its interim order April 26 postponed the trial court proceedings till further orders and exempted Mittal and Ruia from personal appearance, the lawyers submitted.

The pleas of Mittal and Ruia, filed in the apex court, challenged the 2G special court’s summons.

The special court summoned the top executives in connection with alleged excess spectrum allocation during the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance regime in 2002.

The trial court issued summons after taking cognizance of the charge sheet filed against mobile firms Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Sterling Cellular for the alleged irregularities.

On Dec 21 last year, the CBI named Shyamal Ghosh and the three telecom firms as accused in the 57-page charge sheet for criminal conspiracy as also under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act for causing a loss of about Rs.846 crore to the exchequer.

The agency told the court that additional spectrum was allotted July 17, 2002 to Bharti Cellular (now Bharti Airtel) and Sterling Cellular (now Vodafone Mobile Service) for the Delhi metro area, and Hutchison Max (now Vodafone India) for the Mumbai metro area.

(Source: IANS)

Court allows Swamy to depose in 2G case

Janata Party chief Subramanian Swamy was Thursday permitted by a special CBI court here to again depose before it as a witness to prove Home Minister P. Chidambaram’s alleged complicity in the 2G spectrum case.

While allowing Swamy’s plea to be recalled as a witness, CBI special Judge O.P. Saini observed: “In view of the fact that the complainant was not aware of the identity of additional proposed accused at the time of filing the complaint, but has now come to know about it, he is not prevented in law for leading evidence on this point, more so, when he has referred to the role of other conspirators in his complaint.”

Swamy had earlier deposed before the court as a witness ahead of the chargesheet being filed in the 2G case.

The court asked Swamy to get himself examined and record his statement Dec 17.

Meanwhile, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) clarified that the special CBI court at Patiala House here, hearing the 2G spectrum case, has permitted Swamy to record his statement, and not necessarily to examine the witnesses.

“The court order does not give any go-ahead to Swamy to examine the witnesses,” the CBI spokesperson said in a statement.

Swamy has sought to make Chidambaram – a former finance minister – a party in the case, saying the decision on spectrum pricing was taken jointly by him and former communications minister A. Raja, who is lodged in Tihar Jail.

The court too clarified that the case is at the initial stage.

“Only the complainant has examined himself as a complainant witness (CW). If such a prayer is made at an earlier stage of the case, I see no reason for disallowing the same,” Saini said.

“Accordingly, complainant Subramanian Swamy is permitted to recall himself as CW1 for leading further evidence.

“However, other witnesses as mentioned in the list of witnesses filed in the application shall be allowed to be summoned only after relevance of their testimony is explained by the complainant,” Saini added.

Swamy had also sought to examine CBI officials concerned “to establish the nexus of accused persons with others, who have intentionally not been made accused by the prosecuting agency”.

2G trial not to be shifted to Tihar for now

The Delhi High Court Wednesday stayed the notification shifting the trial of the 2G spectrum allocation case from the Patiala House complex to the Tihar Jail.

A five-judge bench headed by Acting Chief Justice A.K. Sikri passed the order after the defence counsel for the 14 individual accused approached the court seeking a stay of the registrar general’s administrative order Tuesday shifting the trial.

Now, a committee comprising the registrar general, special Judge O.P. Saini (who is conducting the trial), a district judge of the Patiala House court and a few lawyers representing the accused will identify the place where the trial can be conducted.

In case no such place can be identified, the committee will subsequently look into other options, a defence counsel said.

The matter was initially heard by a division bench of Justice S.K. Kaul and Justice Rajiv Shakdher before whom the counsels of the 14 accused contended that the decision to shift the place of trial was not examined properly and it would cause a lot inconvenience to the defence and its lawyers.

Special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) judge Saini had Tuesday communicated the high court registrar general’s order shifting the trial to the Tihar Jail court complex. The next hearing was scheduled Thursday in a courtroom in the prison premises.

“The exercise of shifting to the Tihar court complex is illegal. There is no security threat. So the court may allow us to continue the trial at Patiala House complex by allotting some other space in this court premises,” defence lawyer Majid Memon said.

To this, the division bench said: “It is an administrative matter. It has been decided by the acting chief justice. We will cross-check with him at lunch time. After checking with the acting chief justice, we will be able to take up the matter.”

The five-judge bench met in chamber under Justice Sikri in the post-lunch session and decided to stay the shift of the trial.

The decision to shift the trial had come as a surprise to all the 14 individuals, including former telecom minister A. Raja and DMK MP Kanimozhi, as well as public prosecutor U.U. Lalit.

Besides Raja and Kanimozhi, the 2G case accused lodged in Tihar Jail include Swan Telecom’s Shahid Usman Balwa, Cineyug’s Karim Morani, Raja’s then private secretary R.K. Chandolia and former telecom secretary Siddharth Behura.

The Supreme Court Wednesday granted bail to five corporate executives co-accused in the case — Sanjay Chandra of Unitech Wireless, Vinod Goenka of Swan Telecom and Reliance Group’s Gautam Doshi, Surendra Pipara and Hari Nair. With the five getting bail, nine people are now behind bars.

Five executives get bail in 2G spectrum case

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.

Give spectrum allocation file to Swamy by Thursday: Court

A special court directed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Tuesday to provide to Janata Party chief Subramanian Swamy within two days a certified copy of a file pertaining to allocation of second generation (2G) spectrum. Swamy asked Judge O P Saini, who is presiding over the special CBI court, as to why the probe agency was not giving him a copy of the file if it is already in the court records.

“A week before this, the court had passed an order directing CBI to give the certified copy of the file to me. But CBI has still not handed over the file,” said Swamy.

CBI counsel A K Singh then assured the court that the file would be provided by Thursday. Judge Saini also directed the agency to hand over a copy to Swamy by Thursday without any further delay.

The file, according to Swamy, was seized by the agency two years ago. “These documents, with the endorsements and signatures of (home minister and then finance minister) P Chidambaram, prove his complicity in the instant scam,” he had alleged.

Following the application, the special CBI court, on that very day, had directed the agency to provide a certified copy of the document to Swamy.

2G case: Behura says CBI discriminating

Former telecom secretary Siddharth Behura, arrested in the 2G case, Tuesday told a special court here that the CBI was discriminating against him by not opposing the bail pleas of other accused. The court reserved its order on his bail plea till Nov 3.

 Senior advocate Aman Lekhi, appearing for Behura, told Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Special Judge O.P. Saini that the prosecution was making a distinction between his client and other accused seeking bail.

It showed there was political intrusion in the legal process, he said.

 While referring to the CBI’s stand of not opposing the bail pleas of five accused, including DMK MP Kanimozhi, Lekhi said: “It is a colourable exercise of power.”

 “If the prosecution has conceded bail to Kanimozhi and (four) others, then all accused should be treated equally. Law makes no distinction among the accused,” he said.

 “The Supreme Court has rightly asked the CBI to explain on what basis they were doing so (discriminating),” Lekhi argued.

 Special Public Prosecutor U.U. Lalit denied Lekhi’s allegation against the agency saying: “I do not hold brief for anyone. I stand here as a prosecutor purely in the capacity of an impartial observer to place the facts before the court.”

 Lalit said that the change in circumstances after framing of charges against Behura was detrimental to him.

 The charge sheet earlier indicted him with charges punishable up to seven years of jail term whereas now he was charged for criminal breach of trust by public servant, carrying a maximum punishment of life term.

 After all the parties concluded their arguments, Judge Saini said: “Order on bail application of accused (Behura) is reserved till Nov 3.”

 The court is also likely to pronounce its verdict on the bail plea of other accused. They included Kanimozhi, Kalaignar TV chief Sharad Kumar, Cineyug Film’s Karim Morani and Kusegaon Fruits and Vegetables Pvt. Ltd. directors Asif Balwa and Rajiv B. Agarwal, whose bail pleas were not opposed by the CBI.

 It will also pronounce its order on the bail application of Swan Telecom promoter Shahid Usman Balwa and former communications minister A. Raja’s private secretary R.K. Chandolia.

We did not oppose Kanimozhi’s bail: CBI

Even as the Supreme Court Tuesday reserved orders on the bail pleas of five top corporate honchos in the 2G spectrum scam, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) said it did not oppose the bail petitions of DMK MP Kanimozhi and four others earlier before the trial court.

 Appearing for CBI, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Harin Raval told Justice G.S. Singhvi and Justice H.L. Dattu that the concession given to Kanimozhi and four others was not available to other accused.

 The investigating agency opposed the bail plea of former telecom secretary Siddharth Behura even though he sought the same concession, the ASG said.

 Special public prosecutor U.U. Lalit told the CBI special court Judge O.P. Saini that it should decide the bail plea of Kanimozhi and four others independent of the fact that it was not opposed by the investigating agency, Raval told the supreme court.

 The four others are the promoters of Kusegaon Fruits and Vegetables Asif Balwa and Rajeev B. Agarwal, Cineyug Film’s Karim Morani and Kalaignar TV’s Managing Director Sharad Kumar.

 Raval said this in response to the court’s query Monday, seeking to know if the CBI had not opposed the bail plea of Kanimozhi and four others before Judge Saini Oct 24.

The court made its query in the wake of a statement by senior counsel Ram Jethmalani that the investigating agency had not opposed the bail plea of Kanimozhi and four others before the trial court.

 The special court reserved its order on their bail applications for Nov 3.

 Raval told the court that he has twice spoken to Lalit, leading the CBI case before Judge Saini, on the matter.

Lalit gave the reasons why the concession was made, Raval said.

 If the court so desired, the reasons could be disclosed, Raval added.

 Justice Singhvi said that it was the absolute discretion of CBI and the special public prosecutor to submit before the trial court.

 After Raval’s statement, Jethmalani told the court that it should pronounce operative part of its order on the bail pleas as it would “help in mitigating the sufferings” of the accused.

The court also expressed its “serious anguish” over the distorted reporting of its Monday’s proceedings by a section of the media.

 

Bail orders reserved, dark Diwali for Kanimozhi, six others

It would be Diwali behind bars for DMK MP Kanimozhi and six others accused in the 2G spectrum allocation case with a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court here Monday reserving the order on their bail pleas till Nov 3.

The CBI told Special Court Judge O.P. Saini that it had no objection to bail being given to Kanimozhi, directors of Kusegaon Asif Balwa and Rajeev B. Agarwal, Cineyug Film’s Karim Morani and Kalaignar TV’s managing director Sharad Kumar.

However, the investigating agency opposed bail for Swan Telecom promoter Shahid Balwa and R.K. Chandolia, who was the secretary of former telecom minister A. Raja, who has also been jailed in the case.

The court reserved its orders on the pleas of all seven till Nov 3. Diwali, also known as the festival of lights, will be celebrated Oct 26.

Kanimozhi, 43, DMK chief M. Karunanidhi’s daughter, who has been in jail for the last five months since her arrest May 20, said charges against her had now been framed and as per the order of the Supreme Court, she could approach the special court afresh for bail.

Senior advocate Altaf Ahmed told the court that as per the June 22 order of the apex court, both Kanimozhi and Sharad Kumar could approach the special court hearing 2G case, seeking bail after framing of charges.

“As per the Supreme Court order on June 22 in the case of Kanimozhi and Sharad Kumar, liberty was given to them to file fresh application for bail before the special court after framing of charges,” said Ahmed.

As a result of this it is now a fit case for bail, he said.

Kanimozhi’s bail application was earlier declined by the special court, the Delhi High Court and as well as by the Supreme Court.

Kanimozhi, along with other 16 accused including Raja, has been charged under penal provisions for criminal breach of trust by a public servant, cheating, forgery for cheating and using a forged document and Section 7 or in alternative Section 11, read with Section 12, and 13(2), read with 13(1b), of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

On Saturday, the court in its order said there was evidence that Raja, former telecom secretary Siddhartha Behura and others conspired to allocate “valuable spectrum”, entrusted to them as public servants, to Swan Telecom and Unitech Wireless illegally to cause “wrongful gain to the companies and thereby Section 409 (criminal breach of trust by public servant) is invoked against them”.

The judge also found evidence of Raja flouting rules to issue 2G licences in 2008, pegging them at 2001 prices, and causing huge losses to the government.

On Kanimozhi, the court found evidence that the Rs.200 crore received by DMK mouthpiece Kalaignar TV was a bribe from the Shahid Balwa-owned DB Realty in return for a 2G licence.

Kanimozhi is accused of being the “active brain” behind Kalaignar TV and having been in “regular touch” with Raja.