2G: Charges framed against A Raja and 16 others

New Delhi: The 2G spectrum case today reached an important milestone with a Delhi court framing charges against all the 17 accused including former Telecom Minister A Raja and DMK MP Kanimozhi and corporate honchos. Special CBI judge O P Saini also ordered that trial in the case will commence from November 11 with all the accused refusing to plead guilty to various offences. "….Thereby, you all committed an offence punishable under Sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy) read with 409 (criminal breach of trust), 420 (cheating) 468 and 471 (forgery) of the Indian Penal Code and Section 7 or in alternative Section 11 read with Section 12 and 13(2) read with 13 (1b) of the Prevention of Corruption Act and within my cognisance," the judge said in his 700-page order.

While framing charges, the judge observed that there is evidence against Raja, his former Private Secretary R K Chandolia and former Telecom Secretary Siddhartha Behura. With today`s development, accused can now move for bail as observed by the Supreme Court during the hearing of bail petition by Kanimozhi earlier.

The Judge said evidence is there for framing of charges against telecom firms Reliance Telecom Ltd, Swan Telecom and Unitech (Tamil Nadu) Wireless Ltd. He also said CBI has also brought evidence to frame charges against corporate executives of Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani group`s Managing Director Gautam Doshi, Surendra Pipara, Group`s President and Hari Nair, senior Vice President.

Others against whom charges have been framed are Swan Telecom promoter Shahid Usman Balwa, his cousin Asif Balwa, their colleague Rajeev Agarwal, Unitech Ltd`s MD Sanjay Chandra and DB Realty MD Vinod Goenka.

The judge said there was prima facie evidence for framing charges also against Kalaignar TV`s MD Sharad Kumar and Bollywood filmmaker Karim Morani.  "You accused A Raja and Siddarth Behura dishonestly in pursuance of the conspiracy disposed of/allocated valuable spectrum, over which you were having dominion which was entrusted to you in the capacity of public servant to M/s Swan Telecom Pvt Ltd and M/s Unitech Wireless (Tamil Nadu) Ltd in violation of law with a view to cause wrongful gain to these companies thereby you committed an offence punishable under Section 2409 read with 120-B and within my cognisance," the judge said.

The court found prima facie evidence to frame various penal charges including cheating, forgery, abetment and criminal conspiracy against the accused. It also found prima facie evidence of abuse of official position by Raja, Chandolia and Behura.

The court had reserved its order on October 14 after hearing day-to-day arguments on behalf of accused and the CBI for nearly two months.

The trial of the accused would begin after the court pronounces its order on framing of charges in the case.

The CBI, in its first charge sheet filed on April 2, had charged Raja and others with causing a huge loss of Rs 30,984 crore to the exchequer by allocating spectrum to ineligible operators as per a criminal conspiracy among themselves.

Special CBI Prosecutor U U Lalit had argued that there was "sufficient prima facie" evidence against all the accused to proceed with the trial as everyone of them was part of the conspiracy and the intent to commit offence "may be inferred from their knowledge". On the other hand, all the accused including Raja had vehemently opposed the framing of charges and the plea of CBI that they caused a loss to the state in the grant of spectrum licenses.

While framing charges against Kanimozhi, the court said she had been "in regular touch" with Raja to serve the cause of party-run Kalaignar TV. "You Kanimozhi Karunanithi had also been in regular touch with accused A Raja regarding launching of Kalaignar TV channel and other pending work of Kalaignar TV Pvt Ltd and you were also an initial director of the company," it said.

The court said that she along with Raja "was further pursuing the cause of Kalaignar TV Pvt Ltd not only for getting registration of the company from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting but also for getting it in the Tata Sky bouquet".

The judge noted that Kanimozhi was a stakeholder in Kalaignar TV to the tune of 20 per cent equity and was "an active brain" behind its operation and was also widely covered by Kalaignar TV.

"Thus the amount of Rs 200 crore paid by Dynamix Realty to … was not a genuine business transaction but in the nature of illegal gratification paid in lieu of the UAS licences…" the judge said.

Special CBI Judge Saini also framed additional charges under Section 193 (giving false evidence) and 120B IPC against Swan Telecom promoter Shahid Usman Balwa and five others for creating false documents to show alleged routing of Rs 200 crore to DMK-run Kalaignar TV as loan transaction.

"You Shahid Usman Balwa, Vinod Goenka, Rajiv Agarwal, Asif Balwa, Karim Morani and Sharad Kumar created false documents to show the bribe amount of Rs 200 crore as loan and with a view to use them in any stage of judicial proceedings and thereby committed an offence punishable under section 193 read with 120B IPC and within my cognisance," the court said.

"I, hereby direct that you all be tried by this court for the aforesaid charges," the judge said while concluding his order.