In a major setback to former union telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran and his elder brother Kalanithi Maran, the Supreme Court on Monday dismissed Dayanidhi’s appeal against the Madras High Court’s verdict in the ‘illegal’ BSNL telephone exchange case. A Bench headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi asked Maran to face trial in the case.
This comes days after the Madras High Court rejected the objection raised by them against a CBI appeal challenging a special court’s order that discharged them in the case.
A CBI court had in March last year discharged the Maran brothers from the decade-long illegal telephone exchange case. Observing that the lower court’s order was “erroneous, illegal as well as perverse”, Justice G Jayachandran had said there was sufficient material to prosecute all the seven accused in the case. The judge also directed the lower court to proceed with the framing of charges against the Maran brothers and complete the trial within 12 months.
The CBI case against Dayanidhi Maran pertains to the then Union minister for communication and information technology allegedly misusing his office and installing a private telephone exchange at his two residences in Chennai. It was alleged that he utilised the facility for business transactions involving Sun Network. The alleged misuse of power and abuse of government facility happened between June 2004 and December 2006.
The Marans were charged with causing a loss of Rs 1.78 crore to the exchequer by using 700 telecom lines allegedly installed at Maran’s residences in Chennai city, one at the Boat Club and the other at Gopalapuram. According to the CBI, the billing addresses of these connections were offices of chief general managers, BSNL, Chennai Telephones, and the agency also accused Maran of obtaining 19 prepaid mobile SIM cards for Sun TV staff without payment of due charges to BSNL. After the FIR was lodged in 2013, there were no efforts by the CBI to arrest Maran brothers until mid-2015.