2G case: One-week breather for Sunil Mittal, six others

New Delhi, April 8 (IANS) The Supreme Court Monday offered partial relief to Bharti Airtel CMD Sunil Mittal, Essar Group promoter Ravi Ruia and five others by directing the 2G case trial court to put off hearing against them till April 16.

Hearing Mittal’s plea, the court said it would examine April 15 whether he could be named by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) as an accused in the case and summoned by the trial court here to appear before it.

Mittal and the other six accused were summoned by the trial court of Special Judge O.P. Saini to appear before it April 11.

The apex court bench of Chief Justice Altamas Kabir and Justice Vikramajit Sen asked the CBI to file an affidavit giving details of the material in its possession pointing to the involvement of Mittal in the case.

The court asked the investigating agency to file its affidavit by Wednesday and gave senior counsel Harish Salve, appearing for Mittal, time till Saturday to file a reply to the CBI’s affidavit.

The probe agency told the trial court that additional spectrum was allotted July 17, 2002 to Bharti Cellular (now Bharti Airtel) and Sterling Cellular (now Vodafone Mobile Service) for the Delhi metro area and Hutchison Max for Mumbai metro area.

The trial court March 19 summoned Mittal and six other to appear before him April 11 in connection with alleged excess spectrum allocation to telecom companies in 2002.

Mittal challenged in the apex court the order of the special court summoning him in the 2G case.

As senior counsel K.K. Venugopal, appearing for the CBI, told the apex court that there was evidence with the agency pointing to the involvement of Mittal in the extra spectrum allocation scam, Chief Justice Kabir asked him why the business tycoon was not named in the chargesheet.

Venugopal said Mittal was not named in the chargesheet as there were differences between then CBI chief and prosecution director.

He told the court that the matter was referred to the attorney general for opinion who did not reply to it.

Venugopal told the court that even if a person was not named as an accused in the chargesheet, the trial court could summon him under Section 319 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

The apex court told him that under Section 319 a person, not named in the chargesheet, could be summoned as an accused only after the recording of evidence and not prior to it.

Along with Mittal and Ruia, those summoned April 11 by the special court included former telecom secretary Shyamal Ghosh and Asim Ghose, formerly with Hutchison Max Telecom now known as Vodafone India.

The trial court issued summons after taking cognizance of the chargesheet filed against Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Sterling Cellular for the alleged irregularities.

On Dec 21 last year, the CBI named Ghosh and the three telecom firms as accused in the 57-page chargesheet for criminal conspiracy as also under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act for causing a loss of about Rs.846 crore to the exchequer.

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