Raja goes to Tihar Jail, looks calm

Former communications minister A. Raja, arrested in connection with the 2G spectrum allocation scam, was Thursday sent to Tihar Jail on 14 days judicial custody by a Delhi court. Wearing a dark grey safari suit, Raja looked calm and collected, his face betraying no emotion, as the order came.Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Special Judge O.P. Saini, who sent him to judicial custody till March 3 as the investigation agency did not seek any further remand for interrogation, allowed Raja to have home-cooked food, his reading glasses and medicines in the jail.

Raja’s defence counsel Ramesh Gupta moved an application that the former minister be allowed to keep his medicines, reading glasses and books with him in Tihar Jail. He also requested that Raja be allowed to get home-cooked food.

Raja arrived at the jail in west Delhi in the evening, around 6 p.m. “He is in Jail No.1,” said Sunil Gupta, Tihar Jail spokesperson. Jail No.1 is meant for high-profile prisoners.

As the order came, Raja, who seemed very relaxed, shook hands with many of his supporters who had arrived in hordes to express their support for their leader. Most of his supporters have been thronging the court where the case has been heard.

Many of them were seen touching his feet and taking his blessing. One of his supporters had Raja’s photograph in his shirt pocket and said the minister is “our god”.

After the judge issued the order in the jam-packed courtroom, a posse of policemen led Raja away. He was kept in the lock-up along with petty criminals who were all waiting to be taken to Tihar Jail in the evening.

In the jail, he would be kept away from his former colleagues, former telecom secretary Siddharth Behura and Raja`s former personal secretary R.K. Chandolia. On Feb 8, they were also sent to 14 days of judicial custody, which is to end on Feb 22.

Raja was arrested Feb 2 for his alleged involvement in the 2G spectrum allocation scandal, which caused huge losses to the national exchequer, and remanded in CBI custody initially for five days.

Raja, a member of the DMK, is alleged to have sold spectrum licences at below market rates, causing a loss of Rs.22,000 crore to the national exchequer, according to the probe agency.

He was asked to resign Nov 14 last year after the Comptroller and Auditor General indicted him in the scam for causing the nation huge losses.

On Feb 8, his remand was extended for two more days after the agency told the court that he was not cooperating during questioning and was being evasive.

The former minister’s custody was extended by two more days Feb 10 on the CBI’s plea. Thereafter, on Feb 14 (Monday), the court again extended his custody with the CBI for three more days.

Raja, Balwa’s CBI custody extended

Former Telecom Minister A. Raja was on Monday sent to Central Bureau of Investigation custody for three more days by a Delhi court which also extended the custody of Swan Telecom promoter Shahid Usman Balwa for four more days in the 2G spectrum case after the investigation agency said it wanted to confront them on the money trail.

“Considering the enormity of crime, complex and complicated nature of the investigation, voluminous documents involved in the case, I find that the prayer for further custodial interrogation of the accused persons is justified,” Special CBI judge O.P. Saini said.

During the hearing on its plea for extension of the remand for Mr. Raja and Mr. Balwa, the CBI said the duo needed to be confronted with some more documents recovered by the investigating agency.

“They (Mr. Raja and Mr. Balwa) are further required to be put under sustained custodial interrogation and confronted with each other on the trail of money as well as with other suspects and witnesses so that the real facts and elements of criminal conspiracy including omission and commission committed in this case, can be unearthed and taken to light,” the CBI said in its remand application.

The CBI initially had sought only two days’ custody for Mr. Raja but the court remanded him in the agency’s custody for three more days after the former Minister’s counsel pointed out to the judge that it will be a national holiday on account of Milad-un-Nabi on February 16 and Mr. Raja may remain in custody for an additional day.

Opposing the CBI’s plea for extension of Mr. Balwa’s custody, his counsel Vijay Aggarwal contended before the court that his client was merely engaged in bona fide commercial transactions and had not violated any law.

“The CBI has not put forward any specific evidence (of Balwa’s criminal culpability) for seeking extension of his remand and has made only a general statement without any substance,” Mr. Aggarwal said.

The CBI, however, pointed out to the court that the agency has added two more sections of the Indian Penal Code relating to cheating and forgery in the case against the accused.

“While investigation is in progress, things are coming to light and so sections 420 (cheating) and 468 (forgery) of IPC have been added,” Senior Public Prosecutor Akhilesh, appearing for the CBI, said.

While seeking extension of the custody, the CBI said the case was “complicated and highly technical“.

“It is an important case. Vastness of the documents and ramifications of this case are much wider and so we need further custodial interrogation of the accused,” the CBI said.

With the court remanding Mr. Raja to three more days of CBI’s custody, the former Minister will be completing the maximum number of 14 days for which any investigating agency can keep an accused in its custody for questioning.

After spending 14 days in the custody of any investigating agency, the accused is sent to judicial custody.

Mr. Raja was arrested on February 2 and remanded to CBI custody initially for five days.

On February 8, he was again remanded to CBI custody for two more days after the agency told the court that he was not cooperating during questioning and was being evasive.

The former Minister’s custody was again extended by two more days on February 10 on a CBI plea.

Apex court nod to probe against former Tamil Nadu Bar Council head

The Supreme Court Monday cleared the decks for an inquiry by the Bar Council of India against suspended chairman of the Tamil Nadu Bar Council (TNBC) R.K. Chandramohan for allegedly trying to influence Justice R. Raghupathy (since retired) of the Madras High Court in a bail matter concerning an acquaintance of former telecom minister A. Raja.

The apex court bench of Justice D.K. Jain and Justice H.L. Dattu in their order said that the Bar Council of India will hold an independent inquiry without being influenced by the proceedings before the high court and the apex court as well.

The court said that since the process for holding fresh elections of the TNBC have already been initiated, thus the plea challenging the suspension of Chandramohan’s membership of the TNBC and consequent stepping down from its chairmanship has become infructuous.

However, whether Chandramohan could contest the ongoing election was not clear and could be a subject of interpretation. Both Senior counsel Mukul Rohtagi and Prashant Bhushan held different views.

Appearing for Chandramohan, senior counsel Mukul Rohtagi asked the court to say that it was not deciding the question of petitioner’s (Chandramohan’s) suspension as the term during which action was taken was coming to an end.

Faulting the high court order, Rohtagi said that ‘it (high court) could not order the suspension of my (Chandramohan) office which is statutory in nature.’ The senior counsel wondered if the high court could suspend a person from statutory office.

Rohtagi said that ‘The elections are on. Nominations are being invited. I (Chandramohan) intend to contest.’

At this the court asked: ‘If the high court is satisfied that the conduct of a person warrants action, should it keep quiet?’

Senior counsel Prashant Bhushan appearing for the petitioner E.G. Rajendran said that the conduct of Chandramohan was contemptuous and he should have been hauled for the contempt.

‘It was a gross contempt and interference with the administration of justice,’ Bhushan told the court.

He told the court that ‘whole object of suspending Chandramohan was to debar him from contesting election. He remains suspended till the Bar Council decides his case.’

In the instant case allegedly acting on behalf of Raja, Chandramohan tried to influence the then judge of Madras High Court Justice R. Raghupathy for securing anticipatory bail to his clients Dr Krishnamurthy and his son, who were wanted by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for forging mark-sheets in MBBS examinations.

Chandramohan allegedly told Justice Raghupathy that the accused were ‘family friends’ of Raja. Chandramohan even made an attempt to make Justice Raghupathy to speak to Raja in which he did not succeed. The matter relates to year 2009.

It was in this matter that the high court suspended the membership of Chandramohan from the Bar Council and consequently he lost the chairmanship of the TNBC.

Court upholds Swamy’s plea against Raja

A Delhi court today held as ”maintainable” Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy’s private complaint to prosecute former Telecom Minister A Raja in the 2G scam and began the process of recording depositions and examining evidence for summoning the accused. 

“I am of the opinion that complaint as such is maintainable,” Special CBI Judge Pradeep Chaddah said, beginning the court proceedings on Swamy’s complaint for Raja’s prosecution for allegedly causing a loss of Rs 1.76 lakh crores to the public exchequer in allocation of 2G spectrum.

“I have gone through the complaint and the bunch of annexure and supporting documents. I am of the view that this complaint is maintainable and the proceedings will continue,” Chaddah said, while asking Swamy to have his statement recorded with the court as per the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code.

“We will not hesitate in issuing process against the accused if prima facie sufficient material is brought on the record,” the judge said.

While recording his statement as a complainant, Swamy again referred to his plea to summon Raja and detailed the sequence of events and the alleged criminal culpability involved in the award of 122 telecom licenses on January 11, 2008.

“In view of all the statements and the documents, contained in detail in my 375-pages complaint, a strong prime facie case is made out against former Telecom Minister A Raja,” testified Swamy.

“They are also confirmed by the findings of the CAG report which necessities the cognisance of my complaint and setting of the process under the CrPC for a proper prosecution of the matter,” he said.

During the hour-long court proceeding, Swamy also presented various documents to support his complaint, pleading that it be taken note of and summons or non-bailable warrant be issued to Raja.

After Swamy’s deposition, the court adjourned the matter to February 5 for recording the testimonies of other witnesses, which as per Swamy’s complaint, includes various CAG officials who have to testify to the authenticity of the CAG report on the 2G spectrum allocation scam.

Earlier, after pronouncing Swamy’s complaint as maintainable, the court spelled out the modalities of further proceedings saying first of all Swamy will have to depose as a complainant in the case and then only his plea seeking appointment as a deemed public prosecutor, could be decided.

“You cannot assume the roles of a complainant and a public prosecutor simultaneously,” the judge said.

The prayer included Swamy’s plea for taking cognisance of his complaint and summoning of Raja to take the case involving a fraud of Rs 1.76 lakh crore to its logical conclusion.

As per the second prayer, Swamy wanted the court to appoint him “as a deemed public prosecutor under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.”

As per his third prayer, Swamy wanted the court’s directions to investigating agencies like the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate to assist him in conducting prosecution and in the further investigation into the scam.

Explaining his rationale to the court for filing his private complaint before it, Swamy had said that though the CBI has registered an FIR in the matter, it has named no body as an accused.

Quoting from the CAG report, he had alleged that Raja committed fraud by adopting the first-come-first-served basis in allocating the spectrum to ineligible companies.

85 out of 122 licenses which were awarded to various companies were illegal, Swamy had said, adding that the figure of Rs 1.76 lakh crore has been arrived at by the CAG after computing the losses in allocation of the spectrum.

In his complaint for prosecution of Raja filed under section 190 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), Swamy also sought directions to the investigative agencies to find out the co-conspirators and other accused in the scam.