New Delhi: Delhi High Court on Thursday deferred a hearing on bail pleas of five business executives charged in one of India’s biggest corruption scandals that has undermined the government and business sentiment in Asia’s third-largest economy.
The court will resume its hearing on 26 April on whether to grant bail to executives from Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani (ADA) Group and the Indian joint ventures of Norway’s Telenor and the UAE’s Etisalat pending the trial over the sale of telecom licences at below-market prices.
The executives appealed to the high court after a lower court rejected their bail applications on Wednesday.
The fallout from the telecom scandal, which a auditor said may have deprived the exchequer of up to $39 billion, has seen some of India’s richest men, seen as symbols of India’s growing global clout, called in for questioning.
Former telecom minister Andimuthu Raja and the executives were charged with manipulating the grant of telecom licences and radio airwaves.
The bail applications were made by three officials of billionaire Anil Ambani’s Reliance ADA Group, including a group managing director, Gautam Doshi.
Sanjay Chandra, managing director of Unitech, and Vinod Goenka, a director of Etisalat’s India partner, also made bail pleas.
Telenor issued a statement after Wednesday’s court ruling saying it had asked Chandra to step down from their joint venture Unitech Wireless.
All of the accused deny any wrongdoing. Telenor and Etisalat have said the events described in the police charges predate their investments in India.
The string of graft accusations have emboldened India’s opposition parties, weakening the government’s ability to push an agenda of economic reforms such as simplifying the tax code or opening the supermarket sector to foreign players.
Breathless media coverage of what has been dubbed the “season of scams” intensified this month when a social activist went on a fast to press the government to pass long-delayed legislation to tackle corruption.