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.

Five more named co-accused in 2G phone spectrum case

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Monday named five more people, including Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi’s daughter Kanimozhi, co-accused in the case involving the award of second generation (2G) phone spectrum.

The supplementary chargesheet, the second thus far, filed by the premier probe agency in a special court here also names as co-accused Sharad Kumar of Kalaignar TV, Karim Morani of Cineyug Films, and Asif Balwa and Rajiv B. Agarwal of Kusegaon Realty.

‘I don’t want to comment now,’ Kanimozhi told in Chennai.

Dayalu Ammal, wife of Karunanidhi and stepmother of Rajya Sabha member Kanimozhi, does not figure in the charges filed Monday as speculated by a section of the media.

The probe agency had first named as accused former communications minister A. Raja, his personal aide R.K. Chandolia, former telecom secretary Siddhartha Behura and Swan Telecom promoter Shahid Balwa.

Later, five more corporate executives were added to the list as co-accused — Vinod Goenka of Swan Telecom, Sanjay Chandra of Unitech and three officials of Anil Ambani Group: Gautam Doshi, Hari Nair and Surendra Pipara.

All nine are in judicial custody.

The case involves award of telecom spectrum to private players, which the investigative agency says was done in a fraudulent manner, causing losses worth billions of rupees to the exchequer.

The case had taken a serious turn after Raja, a leader of the DMK, resigned Nov 14 as communications minister. This was after the official auditor held that his policy on spectrum allocation had led to a loss of several billion dollars to the exchequer.

While the former minister was arrested by the probe agency in the national capital Feb 2, along with Behura and Chandolia, Swan Telecom promoter Balwa was arrested from Pune on Feb 8.

Raja, his aide and officials from the Department of Telecom (DoT) face charges for their roles in awarding radio frequency. The former minister also faces charges of forgery, while Chandolia and Behura have been accused of misusing their official positions.

Judicial custody for five co-accused in 2G telecom spectrum case

Five senior corporate executives named as co-accused in the second generation (2G) telecom spectrum case were sent to 14 days of judicial custody Wednesday after a city court denied them bail and then interim relief.

Those whose pleas for bail and interim relief were dismissed by Special Judge O.P Saini are: Vinod Goenka of Swan Telecom, Sanjay Chandra of Unitech and three officials of Reliance Anil Dhirubhani Ambani Group — Gautam Doshi, Hari Nair and Surendra Pipara.

Immediately after, senior counsel K.T.S Tulsi moved the Delhi High Court on behalf of all the five accused and sought a hearing of their appeals, challenging the lower court order. Justice Vikramjit Sen said an appropriate bench will hear the matter Thursday.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had named them co-accused, along with former telecom minister A. Raja, his personal aide R.K. Chandolia, former telecom secretary Siddhartha Behura and Swan Telecom promoter Shahid Balwa.

These four are already in judicial custody.

“There are serious allegation against the applicants. There is incriminating evidence on record. The CBI has expressed apprehension that the accused may tamper with evidence by trying to win over witnesses and they may flee from justice,” the judge said.

“These apprehension cannot be dismissed as too farfetched at this stage, in the light of serious nature of the case,” he said in the 42-page order delivered Wednesday on the bail pleas of the five accused.

As soon as bail was declined, all the five moved pleas for some interim relief before the court, saying 7-15 days may be given to them so that they can approach a higher court, as they were not arrested during investigations.

“I am not inclined to pass any order regarding status quo or grant of interim bail at this stage as prayed,” the judge said. “All the five should be taken into custody and sent to Tihar Jail. They need to appear before the court throughout the trial.”

The verdict came after Judge Saini had reserved his order last Friday after hearing the arguments of all sides, including that of Supreme Court appointed prosecutor U.U. Lalit who appeared for the premier investigative agency and opposed the bail pleas.

While Lalit appeared for the CBI, former additional solicitor general Mukul Rohatgi appeared for Goenka, Tulsi for Chandra, Seema Gulati for Nair, Ranjit Kumar for Doshi, and Hariharan for Pipara.

In the formal charges running into some 80,000 pages including annexures filed with the special CBI court, also named as co-accused were three firms — Unitech, Swan Telecom and Reliance Telecom.

Among these corporates, Unitech was represented by S.S. Gandhi, Swan by Amit Desai and Sidharth Patnaik, and Reliance Telecom by Manali Singh with authorised representative Nitin Aggarwal.

All the counsel for the accused argued that since their clients were not arrested for past two years, charges had already been officially filed and they had also cooperated with the CBI, they were entitled to bail. This was challenged by the probe agency.

The case took a a serious turn after Raja, a leader of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, resigned Nov 14 as telecom minister after the official auditor held that his policy on spectrum allocation had led to a loss of several billion dollars to the exchequer.

While the former minister was subsequently arrested by the probe agency in the national capital Feb 2, along with Behura and Chandolia, Swan Telecom promoter Balwa was arrested from Pune on Feb 8.

Raja, his aide and officials from the Department of Telecom (DoT) face charges for their roles in the award of scarce radio frequency. The former minister also faces charges of forgery, while Chandolia and Behura have been accused of misusing official position.

“It is unfortunate the bail plea of Vinod Goenka has been rejected by the lower court. We have immense faith in our judicial system and confident that justice will prevail,” said N. Shridhar, group director for DB Realty, reacting to Wednesday’s verdict.

“We would like to state these developments will not affect the operations of DB Realty in any manner whatsoever. There is no direct or indirect shareholding of DB Realty in the telecom business and the company will continue its business in the normal course.”

Raja, 11 others formally charged in 2G spectrum case

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Saturday filed its first chargesheet of 127 pages with 80,000-page annexure against nine people and three firms in the case involving the allocation of second generation (2G) telecom spectrum.

The chargesheet, brought in seven steel boxes, was filed in the special court of CBI Judge O.P. Saini.

Among those named are former communications minister A. Raja, his personal aide R.K. Chandolia, former telecom secretary Siddhartha Behura, Swan Telecom promoter Shahid Balwa, director Vinod Goenka and Unitech Wireless director Sanjay Chandra.

Raja has been accused on several counts.

Three officials from the Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group — Gautam Doshi, Hari Nair and Surendra Pipara — as also three companies, Unitech, Reliance and Swan telecom, were also named as accused in the allocation of spectrum.

Among the individuals, four are already in judicial custody. The court issued summons to the others asking them to appear before it by April 13.

The three officials of the Anil Ambani Group were named in the chargesheet for allegedly concealing the in-eligibility of Swan Telecom for the grant of spectrum, said one of the investigative officers in the case.

Unitech, too, the chargesheet alleged was ineligible as the company did not have the necessary amendment in its memorandum and articles of association to enter the telecom business.

“The public is reminded the above findings are based on the investigation done by CBI and evidence collected by it,” the probe agency said. “Under the Indian law, the accused are presumed to be innocent till their guilt is finally established after a fair trial.”

The accused have been chargesheeted under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, including cheating, forgery and criminal conspiracy.

“We have 125 witnesses on whose information the agency has attached 654 documents to the chargesheet in the case,” said a CBI official.

“In the entire episode, the government incurred a loss of Rs.30,984 crore. Swan and Unitech telecom were the two companies totally ineligible for the licence allocation,” the official added.

“We are also investigating Kaliagnar TV, Asif Balwa and Rajiv Aggarwal, who are the directors of Kusegaon Fruits and Vegetables, and Cineyug and Green House promoters,” said senior public prosecutor specially called from Guwahati, A.K. Singh.

“They are likely to be named in the supplementary chargesheet that will be submitted by end-April,” Singh said, adding, the name of Kusegaon Fruits and Vegetables Private Ltd has since changed to Kusegaon Realty.

Regarding Raja’s close associate Sadiq Batcha, who was found dead under mysterious ciscumstances at his Chennai home last month, the probe agency said that they were tracing the alleged kick-backs in the scam that could have been routed through him.