A Delhi court on Wednesday asked Bharti CMD Sunil Mittal and Essar promoter Ravi Ruia to seek clarification from the Supreme Court regarding its interim order on issue of holding trial proceedings in the additional spectrum allocation case.
Special CBI Judge O.P. Saini told both the corporate honchos to seek clarification from the apex court on this issue by August 14.
“The matter is adjourned for August 14 during which you (Sunil Mittal and Ravi Ruia) will seek clarification from the Supreme Court about its order on the issue,” the judge said and posted the matter for August 14.
The issue was raised after the counsel appearing for Mr. Mittal and Mr. Ruia, who were earlier summoned as accused by the court in the case, sought adjournment of hearing before it on the ground that the apex court had postponed the proceedings before the trial court on the separate pleas filed by the two accused challenging the summoning order.
The apex court in its April 26 interim order had exempted them from personal appearance in the trial court and had said that the hearing against them will remain “postponed” until further orders.
The order had come on Mr. Mittal and Mr. Ruia’s pleas challenging the special court’s March 19 order by which it had summoned them as accused in the case.
The CBI, however, opposed their plea saying the matter has not been stayed by the apex court and it is the duty of both the accused to get it clarified.
“It cannot be like that the matter will not be listed in the Supreme Court, so adjourn the proceedings here...It is their duty that they should get it clarified from the Supreme Court. They cannot sit at their homes and say the matter should be adjourned here,” CBI prosecutor K.K. Goel said.
The judge also told the defence counsel that there is no stay on the proceedings before him by the apex court.
“There is no stay order as of now,” the judge said adding, “As on today, there is no stay. I do not mind giving date but there is no stay.”
The special court had on March 19 summoned Mr. Mittal, Mr. Ruia, who was then a Director in one of the accused companies Sterling Cellular Ltd and Asim Ghosh. The summons to Asim Ghosh have not been served till date.
Their names were not mentioned in the charge sheet filed by CBI on December 21, last year, in the case.
During the hearing on Wednesday, senior advocate S.V. Raju, who appeared for Mr. Ruia, told the court that their matter is pending before the apex court and the proceedings should be adjourned for four weeks.
Advocate Sidharth Aggarwal, appearing for Mr. Mittal, argued that the apex court had given an interim order postponing the proceedings in the case before the trial court till further orders.
“From April 8 onwards there is a postponement on the proceedings before the trial court,” he said.
The defence counsel also said that there matter has not come up for hearing before the apex court after it had formally issued notice to the CBI on their pleas.
The CBI prosecutor, however, opposed their plea saying, “I will suggest that proceedings should start here. Supreme Court has not ordered that proceedings should stop here.”
At this stage, Mr. Raju told the court that their matter has not been listed before the apex court so the trial court should adjourn the hearing till then.
The judge, however, said, “If proceedings are stayed, why these accused (Mr. Mittal and Mr. Ruia) have appeared here. They also know in their heart of hearts that there is no stay.”
Advocate Aggarwal told the court that the interim order by the apex court postponing the proceedings in the trial court is still continue.
He said the Supreme Court has not said that till what time the interim order will continue.
Besides Mr. Mittal, Mr. Ruia and Mr. Asim Ghosh, the court had also summoned as accused Shyamal Ghosh and three telecom firms Bharti Cellular Ltd, Hutchison Max Telecom Pvt Ltd (now known as Vodafone India Ltd) and Sterling Cellular Ltd (now known as Vodafone Mobile Service Ltd).
CBI, in its charge sheet, had named the three telecom companies as accused in the case relating to the Department of Telecommunications allocating additional spectrum which had allegedly resulted in a loss of Rs 846 crore to the exchequer.
Though the three were not mentioned in CBI’s charge sheet as accused, the court in its order had said it was taking cognisance of the case and issuing summons to all the seven accused, including them, for April 11.
The court had said that the three were “prima facie” in “control of affairs” of their respective companies which were charge sheeted by CBI for offences of criminal conspiracy (section 120—B) under the IPC and under provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.