Judge Saini says allegations of bribe paid to Kalaignar TV not absurd or unfounded
The special court hearing the 2G case said on Saturday that it was impossible to arrive at the exact amount of loss due to the scam. “There are allegations of loss to the exchequer in the charge sheet also, of which rough estimates have been arrived at and that too, in my humble view, rightly, as in such a situation it is not possible for anyone to calculate the exact amount of loss,” special CBI judge O.P. Saini said.
But the “loss or quantification of loss in exact terms is not the essential requirement of offence of criminal conspiracy to cheat or to commit criminal misconduct.”
[While one estimate of the CAG report pegged the loss at Rs.1.76 lakh crore, the CBI alleged a loss of Rs. 30,984 crore in its charge sheet. A covering letter attached to a TRAI report on spectrum pricing, however, said “telecom services and spectrum should not be seen as a source of revenue for the government.”]
On the alleged bribe of Rs. 200 crore paid by Dynamix Realty to Kalaignar TV, Mr. Saini said: “The allegations [of Rs.200 crore bribe] are not imaginary, absurd or unfounded and, as such, at this stage of the case, shall be taken at their face value. It is purely a question of fact and any observation at this stage may prejudice the parties.”
The accused had submitted that no one would pay a bribe 16 months after obtaining the alleged favour. On this, the court said: “I do not find any merit in the submissions of the accused, at this stage of the case, that the transaction may be treated as a transaction of loan without any taint of criminality.”
The judge also said there was no “contemporaneous documentation” of the transaction and that, according to the CBI, the money was returned when the agency's investigation gathered momentum. Mr. Saini further referred to this transaction in various tranches to state why some of the accused — Karim Morani, Asif Balwa, Rajeev Aggarwal, Sharad Kumar and Kanimozhi — were also a part of the conspiracy. “The transfer of this huge amount in such a systematic and calculated manner indicates that they [accused] were acting in pursuance of the conspiracy,” the court said.
On the former Telecom Minister, A. Raja's defence that he had made telecom services affordable and brought in huge investment into the sector, Mr. Saini said: “The supremacy of the Constitution and the rule of law have to be maintained and the same cannot be allowed to be compromised in the garb of fresh investment. Affordability of mobile phones does not mean that public servants would start subverting the law and filling their own pockets by taking bribes.”
However laudable the objectives of a policy, they should not be achieved illegally, the court said. “The same is the case for seeking private investment, domestic as well as foreign. For seeking investment for the implementation of the policy of the government or during such investment by private players, one cannot be allowed to violate the constitutional and statutory norms.”
Mr. Saini pointed out that prima facie the material on record indicated that the “conspiracy” started after Mr. Raja became Telecom Minister and that “its physical manifestation started becoming clear in August-September 2007 on receipt of TRAI recommendations dated August 28, 2007,” adding that it continued until the last tranche of Rs.50 crore was received by Kalaignar TV on August 7, 2009, as illegal gratification.
Rejecting the defence contention that all the accused were not known to each other, the court said: “All the accused were known to each other and it is contrary to the record to say that they were wholly unknown to each other and, as such, were not capable of entering into any conspiracy. Even otherwise, it is not necessary that all conspirators should know each other,” adding there were witness statements alluding to this prima facie view.
Reliance Telecom to move High Court
Meanwhile, one of the accused companies, Reliance Telecom, whose three employees have also been charged, said in a statement: “Reliance Telecom and the three executives will immediately be moving the Delhi High Court for quashing of the charges.”