"Licences granted to Aircel by Maran on basis of a quid pro quo"

The Centre for Public Interest Litigation, whose PILs have helped drive ongoing criminal investigations into the 2G scam, moved the Supreme Court on Wednesday to demand a CBI probe into allegations that the grant of licenses to Aircel by Dayanidhi Maran when he was Telecom Minister was on a “quid pro quo” basis.

In a new petition filed through advocate Prashant Bhushan, the CPIL said Tehelka magazine in its June 4, 2011 issue had published a cover story in which “a serious case has been made out against” Mr. Maran during the time he was Telecom Minister between May 23, 2004 and May 15, 2007.

In November 2006, the DoT issued 14 Letters of Intent to Aircel, and all of them were converted into licences in December 2006. “Within three months of this”, Tehelka said, “Mr. Maran’s family owned business (Sun) received substantial investment from Maxis Group (Aircel) by taking 20 per cent equity in Sun Direct. The FIPB approved this investment on March 2 and 19, 2007. Maxis group invested a total of Rs. 599.01 crore in Sun Direct between December 2007 and December 2009 and in addition, a Maxis group company (Astro, through its wholly owned company, South Asia Multimedia Technologies Ltd) also made an investment of Rs. 11.28 crore in South Asia FM Ltd (SAFL), an FM company owned by Maran Group which had licences to own and operate 23 FM radio stations in India. These transactions show a clear quid pro quo for getting the UAS licences by Maxis group”, it alleged.

In a statement to the press on Wednesday, Mr. Maran, who is now Union Minister for Textiles, denied these allegations and said “no telecom company, directly or indirectly, had ever invested in any of the companies owned by my brother during my tenure as Telecom Minister”.

The application further said the CBI had conducted an investigation in the 2G scam and filed two charge-sheets with 17 persons/companies charged as accused. In its second charge-sheet, the CBI had provided details as to how DB Realty Group, one of the beneficiaries of 2G spectrum scam, had routed Rs. 200 crore as bribe money to Kalaignar TV.

It said “the shareholders of Kalaignar TV are: Mrs. Dayalu Karunanidhi (60 per cent), Ms. Kanimozhi Karunanithi (20 per cent), and Mr Sharad Kumar (20 per cent). While the CBI has made Mr Sharad as Accused No. 16, and Ms. Kanimozhi as Accused No. 17, it has not charge-sheeted Mrs. Dayalu, who is the wife of Mr. M. Karunanidhi, former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and the Chief of DMK Party.”

The petition alleged that Mrs. Dayalu had been deliberately not made an accused by the CBI. It cited a news report dated May 10, 2011 stating that she was present in the Board meeting when the critical decisions were taken by Kalaignar TV.

On the DMK President’s third wife Mrs. Rajathiammal, the petition said the CBI had apparently cleared her though a clear case of quid pro quo had been established. It alleged that Tatas had transferred a land in Chennai at much below market price to the family of Mr. Karunanidhi. Mrs. Rajathiammal’s conversation with Tata’s lobbyist Ms. Niira Radia was intercepted and became public wherein the transfer of the said land figured. The said conversation and the facts relating to the said transfer were already on record. “It appears that she and Tatas are being shielded by the CBI.” The petitioner wanted the application to be taken on record and a direction to pass appropriate orders on it.