Way was today paved for the trial in the 2G spectrum allocation scam case with a special court framing charges against former Telecom Minister A Raja,DMK MP Kanimozhi and 15 others for offences,including criminal breach of trust that entails a maximum punishment of life term.
Besides Raja and Kanimozhi,corporate honchos-Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group’s MD Gautam Doshi,Group President Surendra Pipara and Senior Vice President Hari Nair,Unitech MD Sanjay Chandra and Swan Telecom promoters Shahid Usman Balwa and Vinod Goenka are among the other high-profile accused who will face trial,commencing on November 11.
“I hereby direct that you all be tried by this court for aforesaid charges (alleged by CBI),” Special CBI Judge O P Saini,who dealt with offences under 13 heads in his order,said in the packed courtroom.
There was a pall of gloom in the courtroom as the accused,their family member and relatives heard the judge pronouncing the order allowing trail under all the penal provisions raised by CBI in its two charge sheets.
With an important milestone reached today in the case,the accused can now now move for bail even as early as Monday as the Supreme Court had observed on an earlier occasion that the accused could seek for relief after charges are framed.
They have also said they would approach the High Court against today’s order.
The court said there was prima facie evidence that Raja,former Telecom Secretary Siddharth Behura and others conspired to allocate “valuable spectrum”,entrusted to them in the capacity of being public servants,to Swan Telecom Pvt Ltd and Unitech Wireless (Tamil Nadu) Ltd in violation of law to cause wrongful gain to the companies and thereby Section 409 (criminal breach of trust) is invoked against them.
The charges framed under various provisions of the IPC and the Prevention of Corruption Act also dealt with criminal conspiracy,cheating,forgery,faking documents,abusing official position,getting bribe and criminal misconduct by public servant.
The offences entail punishment ranging from six months in jail to life imprisonment.
Minutes after the judge pronounced his order,senior advocate Sushil Kumar,representing Raja,objected to certain portions of the order and said,”How can the court write,on its own,that too on behalf of the accused that I plead not guilty and claim trial”.
The court offered to rectify the mistake and later Raja,like other accused,also put his signature below the line (written by the judge) that said,”I plead not guilty and claim trial.”
The court,in its order,discussed the entire sequence of events related to spectrum allocation and attributed “prima facie” culpability of all the accused,including Raja.
It said Raja did not pay any heed to the advice of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to think of auctioning the spectrum.
“…the Prime Minister also sent you (Raja) a letter dated November 2,2007 on this issue and you accused A Raja deliberately and dishonestly did not consider auction or revision of entry fee (of Rs 1658 crore),and gave away licenses/spectrum at same fee,which was discovered in 2001…,” the court said.
The court said Raja and former Telecom Secretary Siddharth Behura cheated the Department of Telecom (DoT) in issuing the licenses by using a “forged note of the minister”.
“You Behura,Secretary (Telecom),you (Behura) attached a draft press release for approval of you (Raja),and this draft press release contained the manner in which the letters of Intent (LoIs) were planned to be issued to applicants and you (Raja) ‘approved’ the same and asked you (Behura) to obtain the Solicitor General’s opinion… .
“But you (Raja) in conspiracy with you (Behura) subsequently struck out the last para of the press release,which mentioned,’However,if more than one applicant complies with LoI conditions on the same date,the inter-se seniority would be decided by the date of application’ and you (Raja) struck out the last para of the draft press release…” the court said.
It said Raja unilaterally decided to change the cut-off date to help Unitech group.
“You (A Raja),in pursuance to the conspiracy and for ensuring better prospects for your favoured companies,cut it short and decided the cutoff date to be October 1,2007,and a press release was issued to this effect on September 24,2007…even though this cutoff date of October 1,had been announced,you (Raja) in conspiracy with other accused,had already taken a view to keep the cut-off date as September 25,…,” it said.
The court also referred to alleged manipulations with the first-come-first served policy by Raja and others to extend benefits to Swan Telecom and Unitech Wireless (Tamil Nadu) Ltd.