Former telecom minister A Raja, DMK MP Kanimozhi, Swan Telecom promoter Shahid Balwa and others opposed on Monday the CBI and ED pleas seeking early hearing of the probe agencies' appeals challenging the acquittal of individuals and firms in the 2G spectrum allocation scam cases. They said the agencies have not shown the urgency so far and during the COVID-19 pandemic, courts are following a particular sequence in conducting proceedings giving priority to cases where accused/ convicts are in jail and that pattern should not be disturbed.
The CBI and the ED sought early virtual hearing of their appeals saying that the country's largest trial, which was conducted at the public exchequer's cost, be brought to its logical conclusion. Justice Brijesh Sethi, who heard the matter through video conferencing for nearly three hours, was told by Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain, representing the probe agencies, that arguments ought to be concluded in the public interest.
As no evidence is required to be collected and only oral submissions are to be held, they can be done through the video conferencing proceedings, Sethi said. The court will continue hearing arguments on Tuesday.
The two agencies have sought early hearing of the appeals which are listed for October 12. The CBI has also sought advancing the hearing of the appeal challenging the acquittal of Essar Group promoters Ravi Kant Ruia and Anshuman Ruia and six others in a separate case arising out of the 2G scam probe.
Jain contended that whenever an early hearing application is filed, the matter is primarily between the applicant and the court and respondents have a little say in it. The replies filed in response to the early hearing applications are contrary to the assurances given to the court, he said. Counsel for various individuals and companies opposed the agencies' submission that a considerable judicial time has been spent in the arguments before Justice Sethi who is going to retire in November and the leave to appeal be heard before he demits the office, otherwise it would be a waste of the court's time.
They said the presiding officer demitting the office cannot be a ground for early hearing. Advocate Manu Sharma, appearing for Raja, said during the COVID times, a sequence is being followed by the courts which are first hearing matters in which people are in jail and this case does not fall in the category.
Advocate Vijay Aggarwal, appearing for various individuals including Raja's erstwhile private secretary R K Chandolia and Balwa, said he had in 2014 argued for conducting a joint trial in the CBI and ED case; however, it was opposed by the agencies and the trial court had rejected his prayer. He questioned the CBI for only picking this case for early hearing and not the two other cases where accused were discharged by the trial court and the appeals are pending in the high court.
The two cases are - 2002 additional spectrum allocation case in which former Telecom Secretary Shyamal Ghosh and three telecom firms were discharged and Aircel-Maxis case in which former Telecom Minister Dayanidhi Maran and his brother Kalanithi Maran and others were discharged. Advocate Tarannum Cheema, appearing for Kanimozhi, said there were no cogent reasons given by the agencies for seeking early hearing in the matters and this plea is only a counter blast to the applications filed by certain accused, asking for release of their attached properties.
She pointed out that Unitech Ltd MD Sanjay Chandra, who is in jail in another matter, has not been served with the copy of the agencies' application and due to COVID-19, it is difficult for her to meet him in jail and take instructions. The court asked the agencies to serve a copy of the application to Chandra today itself via e-mail.
Leave to appeal is a formal permission granted by a court to a party to challenge a decision in a higher court. A special court had on December 21, 2017 acquitted Raja, DMK MP Kanimozhi and others in CBI and ED cases related to the scam.
It had acquitted 17 others, including DMK supremo M Karunanidhi's wife Dayalu Ammal, Vinod Goenka, Asif Balwa, film producer Karim Morani, P Amirtham and Sharad Kumar, Director of Kalaignar TV in the ED case. On the same day, the trial court had also acquitted former telecom secretary Siddharth Behura, Raja's erstwhile private secretary R K Chandolia, Unitech Ltd MD Sanjay Chandra and three top executives of Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (RADAG) -- Gautam Doshi, Surendra Pipara and Hari Nair, in the CBI's 2G case.
Swan Telecom promoters Balwa and Vinod Goenka and directors of Kusegaon Fruits and Vegetables Pvt Ltd Asif Balwa and Rajiv Agarwal were also acquitted in the CBI case. On March 19 2018, the ED had approached the high court challenging the special court's order acquitting all the accused.
A day later, the CBI too had challenged in the high court the acquittal of the accused in the case.