Aircel-Maxis Case: CBI Has Sanctions to Prosecute 5 Bureaucrats

The CBI, on Friday, 11 January, informed a Delhi court that the Centre has granted sanction to prosecute five people, including serving and former bureaucrats, accused in the Aircel-Maxis case involving Congress leader and ex-Union minister P Chidambaram and his son Karti.

The then members of the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB), against whom sanctions have been procured, are the then Secretary (economic affairs) Ashok Jha, the then Additional Secretary Ashok Chawla, the then Joint Secretary in Finance Ministry Kumar Sanjay Krishna, the then Director in the ministry Dipak Kumar Singh, and the then Under Secretary in the ministry Ram Sharan.

Of the five, three are working with various government departments while two have retired.

The submissions were made before Special Judge O P Saini who extended till 1 February the interim protection from arrest granted to Chidambaram and Karti in the Aircel-Maxis cases filed by the CBI and the ED.

The CBI had on 16 November last year informed the court that a similar nod was procured for P Chidambaram. There are 18 accused in the case.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the CBI on Friday, 11 January, told the court that the ongoing probe was about to be completed and sought a brief adjournment in the matter.

Senior advocates Kapil Sibal and A M Singhvi appeared for the Chidambarams and sought extension of protection granted to them.

The court also adjourned the money laundering case, lodged on the basis of the CBI case, for the next date after ED's special public prosecutor Nitesh Rana made the request in this regard.

The court had earlier questioned the CBI as to why it had filed the charge sheet without getting the appropriate sanction.“What was the hurry,” the court had asked.

Chidambaram and Karti were named in the charge sheet filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation in the case on 19 July. The agency filed a supplementary charge sheet before the special judge, who had fixed it for consideration on 31 July.

The CBI is probing how P Chidambaram, who was the Union Finance Minister in 2006, granted FIPB approval to a foreign firm, when only the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) was empowered to do it.

The CBI and ED, in their replies to the anticipatory bail pleas of the Chidambarams, had recently told the court that custodial interrogation of both the accused was required since various new materials have surfaced after filing of the charge sheet, alleging that they were not cooperating in the probe.

The father-son duo recently denied the allegations of both the agencies that they were evasive and non-cooperative during the probe in the case, and said the allegations against them were "unsubstantiated" and there was no need of their custodial interrogation.

The submissions were made in their rejoinder, filed by advocates P K Dubey and Arshdeep Singh, in response to the replies of the probe agencies.

P Chidambaram filed his anticipatory bail application in May last year. His protection from arrest has been extended from time to time.

The agencies have sought the custodial interrogation of both the accused, saying they have not been cooperating and, therefore, making it difficult to complete the investigation in a time-bound manner as directed by the Supreme Court.

The senior Congress leader and his son have come under the scanner of investigating agencies in the Rs 3,500-crore Aircel-Maxis deal and the INX Media case involving Rs 305 crore.

In its charge sheet filed earlier in the present case against former telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran, his brother Kalanithi Maran and others, the CBI alleged that P Chidambaram granted FIPB (Foreign Investment Promotion Board) approval in March 2006 to Mauritius-based Global Communication Services Holdings Ltd, a subsidiary of Maxis.

The Maran brothers and the other accused named in the CBI charge sheet were discharged by the special court, which said the agency had failed to produce any material against them to proceed with the trial.

The ED is also probing a separate money-laundering case in the Aircel-Maxis matter, in which the Chidambarams have been questioned by the agency and their anticipatory bail is pending.

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