The CBI on Wednesday opposed the bail plea of five corporate honchos,who appeared as accused after being named in the chargesheet in the 2G spectrum scam case,in a Delhi court saying that from being “suspects” they have become “accused”.
“The status of a person changes in law after filing of the chargesheet. They are not entitled to release on bail ipso facto (by default) on appearance before the court. From being suspects,they have now become accused and hence,will have to justify their bail plea,” senior advocate U U Lalit,who has been appointed as a special prosecutor by the Supreme Court,said.
“There are nearly 180 prosecution witnesses and some of them are under political perception of threat,” Lalit said and gave some classified documents to CBI Judge O P Saini who has been appointed to hear exclusively the 2G case on day-to-day basis.
After defence lawyers sought a copy of the document,Lalit said “it is not for you. I may use them in our reply.”
The plea drew sharp reactions from defence lawyers,including senior advocates Mukul Rohatgi,K T S Tulsi and Ranjit Kumar who said in fact it is CBI which will have to justify the arrest in the backdrop of the fact that the accused were not arrested during the investigation.
Top corporate leaders Swan Telecom Director Vinod Goenka,Unitech Wireless (Tamil Nadu) Ltd Managing Director Sanjay Chandra,and three top officials of Reliance ADA Group Gautam Doshi,Surrendra Pipara and Hari Nair appeared in the packed courtroom alongwith a battery of lawyers. They were not arrested in the case.
Within minutes of commencement of hearing,Rohatgi,appearing for Vinod Goenka of Swan Telecom,moved the bail application saying “the accused is entitled to release on bail.”
“The chargesheet has already been filed,cognizance taken. If an accused is not arrested during the investigation,then there is no question of his arrest subsequently,” Rohatgi said.
“What is the apprehension of CBI? I have appeared before it during the investigation and now I am before the court and there is no precedent that the accused is denied bail after being summoned in such a case,” he said.
The maximum sentence in such cases is seven years and the prosecutor has made an argument as if it is a heinous offence,Rohatgi said,adding “cite a case where bail is denied to an accused who is summoned after filing of the chargesheet in such cases”.
“The prosecutor has made a topsy turvy argument. The court could have issued a warrant but the summons were issued,” he said.
Earlier during the day,the five corporate honchos,had moved bail pleas in a Delhi court,which asked the CBI to file its replies.
“The CBI is granted time to file reply and put up the matter for arguments on April 15,” Special CBI Judge O P Saini said.
Top corporate executives – Swan Telecom Director Vinod Goenka,Unitech Wireless (Tamil Nadu) Ltd Managing Director Sanjay Chandra,and three top officials of Reliance ADA Group Gautam Doshi,Surrendra Pipara and Hari Nair appeared before the special court for the first time and sought bail on the ground that they were not arrested during the investigation.
“The accused are entitled for relief on bail,” senior advocate Mukul Rohatagi,appearing for Vinod Goenka,said.
Similar pleas were advanced by lawyers for other corporate honchos.
Senior advocate U U Lalit,who has been appointed as Special Public Prosecutor by the Supreme Court,vehemently opposed the applications,saying,”Accused are not entitled for release on bail ipso facto (by default) on appearance before the court. They will have to justify their bail pleas.”
Citing legal provisions relating to the bail,Lalit said,”The suspects have now become accused after the filing of the charge sheet. Now it is between them and the court. The accused will have to justify their release on bail.”
Senior advocate K T S Tulsi,appearing for Unitech Wireless MD Sanjay Chandra,said,”Can the prosecution continue to change its stand? What is the change in circumstances except the change in public prosecutor?
“The accused who have not been arrested during the investigation are entitled to be released on bail on their appearance before the court of law,” Tulsi said.
After the brief arguments,Lalit sought time to file replies to the bail applications of the accused. The plea was allowed by the court which fixed the matter for further hearing on April 15.
The CBI had filed its first chargesheet in the case on April 2 against nine persons and three leading Telecom companies –Reliance Telecom Ltd,Swan Telecom Ltd and Unitech Wireless (Tamil Nadu) Pvt Ltd.
The five corporate executives who were not arrested in the case,had been summoned by the special court,specifically set up to try the 2G scam accused,to appear before it on Wednesday.
Former Telecom Minister A Raja,former Telecom Secretary Siddhartha Behura,Raja’s personal secretary R K Chandolia and Swan Telecom promoter Shahid Usman Balwa were arrested earlier during the probe into the case and are lodged in Tihar Jail under judicial custody.
Special CBI Judge Saini has already taken cognisance of the charge sheet running into 80,000 pages after it was filed in his court on April 2.
The CBI had filed the chargesheet against them for allegedly committing offences of forgery and cheating under the Indian Penal Code and for offences of giving and accepting bribe and abusing official position under the Prevention of Corruption Act.
The CBI has indicted Raja for conspiring with top bureaucrats,including a retired IAS officer,and corporate honchos to cause a loss of Rs 30,984 crore to the exchequer in allocation of the 2G spectrum.
The agency,in its first chargesheet,has alleged that Behura,Chandolia,Balwa and Chandra entered into a conspiracy for manipulating the procedure for allocation of spectrum with the aim of favouring companies like Swan Telecom and Unitech Group.
The CBI is likely to file its second charge sheet in the case by April 25 and is to complete its probe by May 31.