Home >politics >policy >2G scam: CBI court to conclude hearing this week, verdict likely in 3 months

The five-year-old trial in the 2G spectrum scandal has reached the last stage, with a special court likely to conclude hearing this week. A verdict, though, may take three more months.

Since 2012, the special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court is trying cases relating to the irregularities in the allocation of 2G telecom spectrum and licences.

Special judge O.P. Saini said on Tuesday that the trial is likely to conclude this week and indicated the verdict could be pronounced in three months.

Former telecom minister A. Raja, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) parliamentarian Kanimozhi and 15 others including bureaucrats and businessmen have been tried as accused for charges varying from cheating, abusing public office to criminal conspiracy.

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On 2 February 2012, the Supreme Court cancelled 122 telecom licences and spectrum allocated to nine companies in January 2008, holding that the process of allocation was flawed. The court further directed that the spectrum or any natural resource must be auctioned, dealing a political blow to the then Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.

In 2008, the licences were awarded on a first-come-first-served basis to new entrants and CDMA operators migrating to GSM technology, at a price discovered in an auction held seven years earlier.

The apex court verdict set the stage for an investigation and trial to prosecute those involved. The CBI had told the court that there was a loss of Rs30,984 crore due to the scrapping of licences.

The CBI court began trial in 2012 in five cases - two filed by the CBI and a third by the Enforcement Directorate (ED). The court has dropped charges in two separate cases- one involving another former telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran in the Aircel-Maxis case and another case relating to irregularities in allocation of additional telecom spectrum in 2002.

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In February 2016, the court gave clean chits to Maran, his brother Kalanithi and others, over allegations that as telecom minister, Dayanidhi Maran used his influence to coerce Aircel owner, C. Sivasankaran, into selling his stake in the company to T. Ananda Krishnan-led Maxis Communications Bhd.

This was allegedly done in lieu of investments by the Malaysian company through an arm in Sun Direct TV Pvt. Ltd. Dayanidhi Maran is one of the promoters of Sun Direct and was telecom minister between 2004-07.

In 2015, the court had also discharged all accused in the 2002 additional telecom spectrum scam involving former telecom secretary Shyamal Ghosh and three telecom firms—Bharti Cellular Ltd, Hutchison Max Telecom Pvt. Ltd (now known as Vodafone India Ltd) and Sterling Cellular Ltd (now Vodafone Mobile Service Ltd).

Besides Raja and Kanimozhi, former telecom secretary Siddharth Behura, Raja’s erstwhile private secretary R.K. Chandolia, Swan Telecom promoters Shahid Usman Balwa and Vinod Goenka, Unitech Ltd managing director D. Sanjay Chandra, three top executives of Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (RADAG)—Gautam Doshi, Surendra Pipara and Hari Nair—are facing trial in the case.

Besides these 14 accused, three telecom firms—Swan Telecom Pvt Ltd (STPL), Reliance Telecom Ltd and Unitech Wireless (Tamil Nadu) Ltd—are being tried under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

Anand Grover, senior advocate and CBI’s special prosecutor has presented over 150 witnesses including Reliance ADAG chairman Anil Ambani, his wife Tina Ambani and former corporate lobbyist Niira Radia.

Priyanka Mittal and PTI contributed to the story.

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