Citing law ministry reports, Reliance Telecom Ltd (RTL) sought quashing of charges against it in the 2G scam.
Arguing before the Delhi High Court, the RTL also sought to include the law ministry, the Department of Telecom (DoT) and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) as respondents in its petition, a plea rejected by Justice Mukta Gupta. It said there was no need to issue notices to these authorities at this juncture. The HC sought a reply from the CBI within four weeks, and fixed the next date of hearing on January 12.
The RTL had sought making law ministry a party to its plea, saying the ministry’s report, clarifying the meaning of the term ‘associate’ of a commercial firm was overlooked by the CBI and not considered even by the trial court during framing of charges against it. The company moved the HC last week, challenging special judge O P Saini’s decision to put it on trial, saying it never held stakes in excess of 9.9% in Swan Telecom and that too was divested prior to the grant of licences in January, 2008. Appearing for RTL, senior counsel N K Kaul said the stakes were hived off from Swan Telecom in October, 2007.
Kaul referred to a law ministry report sent to the DoT defining the term “associate” of a firm and purportedly saying that the 2G spectrum allocation scam beneficiary Swan Telcom was not an associate of RTL.
“We are dealing with high offices. CBI cannot pick and choose. The agency says it is unsolicited opinion and the court does not look into it,” the lawyer argued, urging the court to make law ministry a party to the case.
The lower court had found prima facie evidence to put RTL on trial under Sections 109 (abetment), 120B (criminal conspiracy) and 409 (criminal breach of trust) of the IPC, saying co-accused Shahid Usman Balwa-led Swan Telecom was “just a mask” for RTL.
“The source of funding of Swan was RCL/RTL… As such, Swan was not only an ‘associate’ but a front, or a facade, for RCL/RTL. In a sense, Swan was RCL/RTL itself and Swan was just a mask for it,” the lower court had said.
RTL moved the high court seeking setting aside of the lower court’s order on framing of charges, saying “there was no allegation that these accused – Gautam Doshi, Surendra Pipara and Hari Nair – ever met, knew or dealt with any public servant”. It said its officials were not involved in the transfer of Swan Telecom to D B Group and hence, the charge of abetment was untenable.
Earlier, the trial court had said the RTL, which had earlier got the CDMA licence, in a bid to obtain GSM licence in 13 circles created a “web of companies” to conceal Swan’s identity.