A Delhi court on Monday fixed May 5 for commencement of recording of statements of former Telecom Minister A Raja, DMK MP Kanimozhi and 15 others facing trial in the 2G spectrum allocation case.
Special CBI Judge O P Saini posted the matter for May 5 after the accused sought some more time to answer the 1,718 questions running into 824 pages asked by the court.
“The time has come when the accused will talk to me directly. It is a dialogue between the accused and the judge,” he said. “I have no problem in giving time, but I will not give time in between. After it (recording of statements) will start, it will go on. It must go at an appropriate speed,” the judge said, adding, “You (accused) will have to answer the questions in bullet speed.”
As soon as the hearing began, the defence counsel said that they need time to prepare the answers to the questions provided by the court. Senior advocate Ramesh Gupta, who appeared for Raja, requested the judge that the matter be fixed for May 5 and they will not seek any more time after that. Advocate Vijay Aggarwal, who appeared for Swan Telecom promoter Shahid Usman Balwa, also told the court that they need time to answer the questions.
The court, however, said that cross-examining a witness and asking questions from the accused under Section 313 of the CrPC were different and lawyers were not going to be involved in the process. “This is between the accused and the judge. Accused may say something to the judge. These are very simple questions,” it said.
“In four months, I have read the file and you (accused) must have read the file as well. You can give answers,” the judge said and also asked the accused if anyone of them was ready to give answers today. The accused told the judge that they would give answers after the recording of statement of Raja.
During the hearing, Raja, Kanimozhi, Balwa and two other accused did not appear before the court and they were exempted from personal appearance for the day. The court had earlier given a “draft questionnaire” to the 17 accused facing trial in the case.
The court had in November last year concluded the recording of prosecution evidence. It had on November 27, 2013 concluded recording of statements of CBI witnesses after the deposition of CBI’s Superintendent of Police Vivek Priyadarshi, the chief investigating officer, got over.
The court had recorded statements of 153 CBI witnesses, including Reliance ADAG Chairman Anil Ambani, his wife Tina Ambani, former corporate lobbyist Niira Radia and Attorney General G E Vahanvati, running into over 4,400 pages. Besides Raja and Kanimozhi, former Telecom Secretary Siddharth Behura, Raja’s erstwhile private secretary R K Chandolia, Swan Telecom promoters Shahid Usman Balwa and Vinod Goenka, Unitech Ltd MD Sanjay Chandra, three top executives of Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (RADAG) – Gautam Doshi, Surendra Pipara and Hari Nair – are facing trial in the case.
Directors of Kusegaon Fruits and Vegetables Pvt Ltd Asif Balwa and Rajiv Agarwal, Kalaignar TV Director Sharad Kumar and Bollywood producer Karim Morani are also accused in the case. Besides these 14 accused, three telecom firms Swan Telecom Pvt Ltd (STPL), Reliance Telecom Ltd and Unitech Wireless (Tamil Nadu) Ltd are also facing trial in the case.
They have been arraigned as accused in the first two CBI charge sheets filed on April 2 and 25, 2011 respectively. The court had on October 22, 2011 framed charges against them under provisions of the IPC and Prevention of Corruption Act dealing with offences of criminal conspiracy, cheating, forgery, faking documents, abusing official position, criminal misconduct by public servant and taking bribe.
The offences entail punishment ranging from six months in jail to life imprisonment.