New Delhi: Former telecom minister A Raja faces a possible life term in jail after the court of Special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) judge OP Saini framed charges in the 2G spectrum allocation scam case on Saturday. The judge charged Raja and former telecom secretary Siddharth Behura with criminal breach of trust under Indian Penal Code Section 409 as they are public servants.
The other 15 accused including DMK MP Kanimozhi and Raja's former personal secretary RK Chandolia have been charged with criminal conspiracy to ensure criminal breach of trust under Indian Penal Code Section 120 (b) (punishment of criminal conspiracy) read with 409.
The court found prima facie evidence against all the 17 accused and said that trial in the case will begin from November 11 after all the accused refused to plead guilty to various offences.
If convicted for criminal breach of trust the maximum punishment is life term while the minimum punishment is seven years in prison. The order is a huge setback for all the accused as the court ordered that Section 409 has been upheld against them.
Raja and Behura have been charged not only under Section 409 but also Sections 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property), 120(B), 468 (forgery for purpose of cheating), Sections 7 and 11 of Prevention of Corruption Act.
All the accused have been charged with cheating, criminal conspiracy, forgery, accepting illegal gratification and criminal breach of public trust.
The corporate executives and business tycoons have been slapped with Indian Penal Code Section 192 (falsification of charges) as well.
Telecom companies Reliance Telecommunication, Unitech Wireless Pvt Ltd (Tamil Nadu) and Swan Telecom, which is now called DB Etisalat, have been charged with criminal conspiracy and abetment in the case. The companies can be slapped with a steep fine if the charges of criminal conspiracy, forgery and cheating are proved.
Judge Saini also observed in his 700-page verdict that Raja had, in conspiracy with other Department of Telecom officials, deliberately delayed the sanction for the Tata Group companies, Tata Teleservices and Tata Teleservices Maharashtra Limited (TTML), after giving green signal to Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (ADAG).
According to the court Raja by referring to the Law Ministry the issue of according dual technology benefits to Tata created an opportunity which made even ineligible firms, Swan Telecom and Unitech Wireless, senior in the priority list for grant of licenses.
The CBI filed its first chargesheet seven months ago, in which it called Raja the mastermind. He has been in jail since his arrest on February 2. The CBI has also named some of the biggest corporate executives and companies in the country in the 2G spectrum allocation scam.
DMK chief and Kanimozhi's father Karunanidhi met Congress President and United Progressive Alliance Chairperson Sonia Gandhi on Saturday morning before the charges were framed. Later, Karunanidhi also paid a visit Kanimozhi in Tihar Jail and also met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The timing of the meetings led to speculation that the DMK chief is desperately trying to get the Congress' help in fighting the 2G case.
Meanhile, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said the court order was a tight slap on the Congress' face. The BJP also demanded a CBI probe to ascertain the role of then finance minister P Chidambaram in the 2G scam and insisted that he should either step down or be sacked to facilitate a fair investigation.
However, Congress reacted sharply to BJP demand for a CBI probe against Chidambaram, describing it as "purely a process of law".
There are a total of 17 accused in the 2G spectrum allocation scam case. They are former telecom minister A Raja, former telecom secretary Siddharth Behura, Raja's private secretary RK Chandolia, Managing Director, Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group Gautam Doshi, Senior Vice President of Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group and Senior Vice President of Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group and Reliance Telecom Surendra Pipara, Senior Vice President of Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group Hari Nair, Unitech's Managing Director Sanjay Chandra, DB Realty promotoer Shahid Balwa, Swan Telecom Director Vinod Goenka, Kalaignar TV MD Sharath Kumar, DMK MP Kanimozhi, Kusegaon Fruits and Vegetables Chief Executives Rajiv Agarwal and Asif Balwa, Cineyug Films' founder Karim Morani, Reliance Telecommunication, Unitech Wireless Pvt Ltd (Tamil Nadu) and Swan Telecom.