2G charges framed; Raja, Kani face life in jail

Last Updated: Saturday, October 22, 2011 - 22:42

New Delhi: Way was on Saturday 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 thirteen 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 will 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) which 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.
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.

"You (Raja), however, in furtherance to criminal
conspiracy, the said procedure (FCFS) was manipulated by you
(Raja), Siddharth Behura and R K Chandolia and was re-defined
to benefit you (Sanjay Chandra), Unitech Wireless (Tamil Nadu)
Pvt Ltd, Shaid Balwa, Vinod Goenka and Swan Telecom, by
shuffling the priority from date of application to the time of
compliance of LoIs...," the court said.

The manipulation in the FCFS policy allegedly denied Tata
Group of companies their seniority over ineligible accused
firms Swan Telecom and Unitech in various circles, it said.

"Unitech Wireless would not have got any license at all
and Swan Telecom would not have got UAS license for Delhi
service area...," the CBI Judge said.

The court, in its order, was critical of the alleged
favours extended to Reliance ADA Group by allowing it to have
dual technology spectrum and simultaneously, Tata Teleservices
Ltd was denied similar approval to have both CDMA and GSM
facilities.

"You (Raja) accorded in principle approval for the dual
technolgy spectrum to the Reliance Communications Ltd, HFCL
Infotel and Shyam Telelinks Ltd ....and when this request of
Tata Teleservices Ltd and TTML was put up for in-principle
approval to use GSM technology under UAS licence, you (Raja)
dishonestly clubbed this issue also with the letter .. being
sent to Ministry of Law and Justice for guidance...," it said.

The court said Raja deliberately did not accord approval
to telecom companies of Tata group till January 10, 2008, when
LOIs for new licences were distributed to other ineligible
firms.

The court, in its order, discussed the windfall profits
earned by Swan Telecom and Unitech Wireless which did not
have telecom as its business objective in the Memmorandum of
Association.

"Swan Telecom and Unitech Wireless offloaded their shares
to the extent of 45 per cent and 60 per cent respectively for
Rs 4200 crore and Rs 6100 crore to Etisalat Ltd of UAE and
Telenor of Norway respectively and together obtained benefit
of Rs 7105 core..." it said.

It said Sanjay Chandra of Unitech cheated DoT by getting
the licenses despite the fact that eight of the group
companies were not eligible for the licenses on the date of
application.

Discussing the roles of three RADAG officials, the court
said they created Swan Telecom from the funds of RTL, the then
CDMA player, for applying for the UAS licenses in 13 circles
as DoT guidelines barred it from venturing into GSM sector.

PTI



First Published: Saturday, October 22, 2011 - 08:47

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