The Delhi High Court on Monday sought CBI’s response to a plea by Reliance Telecom Ltd (RTL) for quashing of charges against it in the 2G spectrum allocation scam case, involving former Telecom Minister A Raja, DMK MP Kanimozhi and others.
A single judge bench of Justice Mukta Gupta issued notice to the CBI seeking its reply within four weeks and slated it for hearing on January 12 next year.
The court, however, rejected RTL’s plea to issue notices also to the Department of Telecom, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India and the Union Ministry of Law and Justice at this juncture saying it would consider later if they need to be issued notices.
“As far as CBI is concerned, I am issuing notice. For others (DoT, TRAI and Law ministry), I do not find any reason to issue notice at this stage,” said Justice Gupta, while issuing notice to the CBI.
RTL had sought making law ministry a party to its plea saying that the ministry’s report, clarifying the meaning of the term ‘associate’ of a commercial firm was neglected by the CBI and not considered even by the trial court at the stage of framing of charges against it, despite the same having been placed on court’s record.
RTL had moved the high court last week challenging Special Judge O.P. Saini’s decision to put it on trial, saying it never held stakes in excess of 9.9 per cent in Swan Telecom and that too was divested prior to the grant of licenses in 2008.
Appearing for RTL, senior counsel N.K. Kaul sought quashing of 2G case charges against the firm, saying it never held stakes in excess of 9.9 per cent in Swan Telecom and that too was divested in October 2007, prior to grant of licenses in January 2008.
Mr. Kaul referred to a Law Ministry report sent to the DoT defining the term “associate” of a firm and purportedly saying that the 2G spectrum allocation scam beneficiary Swan Telcom was not an associate of Reliance Telecom Ltd (RTL).
Mr. Kaul argued the report was deliberately neglected by the CBI and the trial court too had not considered it while framing the charges only because the agency had contended that the report was unsolicited.
“We are dealing with high offices. CBI cannot pick and choose. CBI says it is unsolicited opinion and the court does not look into it,” he said.
Seeking to make Law ministry a party to the case, he added, “It is not a case of simple ignorance of a document. Am I not entitled to ask the law ministry to whether it is a solicited report or not?”
Justice Gupta, however, preferred not to issue notice to the Law Ministry, DoT and TRAI and said the report is already on court’s record and making them a party to the case “is not required at this stage“.
“You want to rely on some document. You have already placed the document before the trial court. Why should they (Law Ministry, DoT and TRAI) be made a party to the case. This is not a PIL. It is an individual petition,” she said.
RTL, a Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group company, had moved the high court on October 24, two days after the trial court framed charges against it and 16 other accused in the 2G case.
The lower court had found prima facie evidence to put RTL on trial under sections 109 (abetment), 120B (criminal conspiracy) and 409 (criminal breach of trust) of the IPC, saying co-accused Shahid Usman Balwa-led Swan Telecom was “just a mask” for RTL.
“Its (Swan Telecom) source of fund was RCL/RTL (Reliance Communication Ltd/ Reliance Telecom Ltd). Directly or indirectly, it was holding 100 per cent shares of Swan as on the date of application.
“The source of funding of Swan was RCL/RTL... As such, Swan was not only an ‘associate’ but a front, or a facade, for RCL/RTL. In a sense, Swan was RCL/RTL itself and Swan was just a mask for it,” the lower court had said.
RTL moved the high court seeking setting aside of the lower court’s order on framing of charges saying “there was no allegation that these accused (Gautam Doshi, Surendra Pipara and Hari Nair, top executives of RADAG) ever met, knew or dealt with any public servant.”
It said RADAG officials were not involved in the transfer of Swan Telecom to DB Group and hence, the charge of abetment was untenable.
Earlier, the trial court had said that RTL, which was already having CDMA licence, in order to obtain GSM licence in 13 circles, created a “web of companies” in order to conceal the identity of Swan.