New bench commences hearing on Mittal & Ruia's plea in SC
New Delhi: After recusal of two judges, a new Supreme Court bench Thursday commenced hearing on the pleas of Bharti Cellular Ltd CMD Sunil Bharti Mittal and Essar Group promoter Ravi Ruia in a case of alleged irregularities related to allocation of additional 2G spectrum in 2002.
Before Mittal could start his arguments, the CBI and an NGO Thursday raised preliminary objections that the matter should not be heard by a newly constituted bench comprising Chief Justice Altamas Kabir and Justice S S Nijjar and instead be referred to the same bench on whose direction the probe was conducted leading them to be named as accused in the case.
However, the Chief Justice said the preliminary objections can be considered after hearing Mittal and others who have challenged the trial court's order summoning them as accused.
"Until we know the facts, how can we understand the case. After we hear it, you can give us the preliminary objections," the bench said when CBI counsel K K Venugopal told the court that the matter be left to the bench headed by Justice G S Singhvi who has been monitoring the probe into the 2G spectrum scam case.
Justice Nijjar was included in the bench as earlier on April 15 and April 18, Justice Vikramajit Sen and Justice A R Dave had recused themselves from hearing the matter without giving any reason.
Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for Mittal, opposed the objection of CBI and said the charge sheet in the case of additional spectrum has been filed and with the filing of police report (charge sheet), the monitoring comes to an end.
"Once the charge sheet has been filed, the question of monitoring does not arise as it leads to snapping of the link (of the case) with the court(monitoring the probe). The umbilical cord is gone," Salve said.
"Thursday, that bench is ceased of the matter. Its my case that this matter stand or fall on its own merit. This matter has to be argued on its own merit," he said.
Salve also assailed the trial court order making Mittal as an accused saying that he was representing the directing mind and will of the company and he was the "alter-ego" of his firm.
He said the CBI, in its charge sheet, had said that it did not find sufficient material and evidence to charge sheet individual private persons and that the trial court has completely given a wrong interpretation by making them accused.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for NGO Telecom Watchdog, supported CBI for referring the matter to the bench headed by Justice Singhvi where the civil appeal on which the probe was ordered is pending.
Mittal and Ruia have challenged the summons issued to them as accused in the case by the trial court.
The CJI had earlier said that a new bench will be constituted to hear the matter and in the meantime, the proceedings pending before the trial court will remain "postponed" for another week.
During the earlier hearing, CBI had said the matter should be referred to the bench headed by justice Singhvi.
Justice Singhvi had directed that CBI probe into the allocation of 2G spectrum when A Raja was Telecom Minister and additional spectrum issued in 2002 during NDA rule when late Pramod Mahajan was Telecom Minister.
Mittal and Ruia had appeared before the trial court on April 16 in pursuance to the apex court's earlier order and also furnished personal bonds which were accepted by Special CBI Judge O P had Saini.