New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday reserved its verdict on Essar Teleholding Ltd’s plea for a joint trial in the 2G spectrum case.
Essar is seeking to “assimilate" the trial of former telecom minister A. Raja, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) member of parliament K. Kanimozhi and others, and the one against itself, which would require the trial to begin again.
Essar moved the apex court against the dismissal of its plea for a joint trial by the special 2G court. The lower court dismissed the plea in September 2014.
Raja and Kanimozhi are facing charges of criminal conspiracy, cheating, forgery, faking documents, abusing official position, criminal misconduct by public servant and taking bribes—offences which are covered by the Prevention of Corruption Act and the Indian Penal Code.
Representing the Central Bureau of Investigation, Anand Grover, who is the special public prosecutor in the 2G special court, opposed Essar’s plea. He told the court that this was a move to “scuttle something that has gone on for the last four years".
A bench comprising chief justice H.L. Dattu, and justices A.K. Sikri and Rohinton F. Nariman heard arguments by Essar’s lawyer Harish and Grover for nearly two hours before reserving the verdict.
“Most probably they’ll dismiss Essar’s application. However, if they allow it, it’ll have a devastating effect on the trial, as it will have to be started all over again," a lawyer who is close to the case said on the condition of anonymity.
CBI has concluded arguments before the special court in the case against Raja and Kanimozhi as well as the Essar-Loop case.
Salve told the court that if the case against Essar, along with Essar group’s vice chairman Ravikant Ruia and group promoter Anshuman Ruia, was for cheating (Section 420 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860), then it would have to go to a magistrate, and not special judge O.P. Saini.
In the alternative, if the apex court found that the special court could hear the case, the entire trial before the lower court judge would have be heard again.
Essar’s plea arises from a supplementary chargesheet filed by the top probe agency CBI in 2011 against Essar, Loop Telecom Ltd and the Ruias, amongst others for criminal conspiracy and cheating. Special judge O.P. Saini, trying the accused in the 2G cases, took cognisance of the chargesheet in December 2011.
Essar challenged this cognisance order of the special court, along with the special court’s powers, before the Supreme Court.
The apex court, in July 2013, ruled that the special judge had the jurisdiction to take cognisance of cases which pertained to the 2G scam.
Apurva Vishwanath contributed to this story.