Over seven months after the first set of charges were framed in
the second generation (2G) spectrum case, the trial began Friday
despite the prime accused, former telecom minister A. Raja,
refusing to query witnesses pending closure of the probe.
"We are beginning the trial, whether you cross-examine witnesses
or not," Special Judge O.P. Saini, who is presiding over the
special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court, said, setting
the stage for a verdict in one of India's most high-profile cases.
There was also some added drama when the accused said they were
unable to hear what was going on and demanded that the trial
proceedings be shifted to a larger venue, rather than the cramped
and crowded court room allocated to this case.
There are 17 accused -- 14 individuals including Raja and his
party colleague and Rajya Sabha member Kanimozhi Karunanidhi --
and three companies, Unitech Wireless, Swan Telecom and Reliance
Telecom, named as co-accused in the case.
Minutes before the trial was to commence, Raja's counsel Sushil
Kumar said the witnesses would not be cross-examined till such
time the probe was complete and all statements as mandated under
Section 244 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) were supplied to
"The date for examination of witnesses has been fixed without
complying with the mandate provision of CrPc. The applicant has no
option but to defer the cross-examination," said Kumar.
Following this, former telecom secretary Siddharth Behura, also
among the 17 co-accused named in the formal charges, also refused
to participate in the questioning, saying: "I do not want to cross
examine the witnesses."
Judge Saini, however, declined their pleas and said trial would
proceed. He also ordered the recording of the statement of the
first prosecution witness -- Anand Subramaniam of Reliance
The court had summoned two other witnesses for examination Friday
-- A.N. Sethuraman of Reliance Group and Vinod Kumar Budhiraja of
Etisalat DB Telecom. They are among the 28 witnesses whom the CBI
wants to examine in the first instance.
The probe agency had filed the first set of charges April 2 in
which it had named as accused Raja, his former personal secretary
R.K. Chandolia, Behura, Swan Telecom's Shahid Usman Balwa and
Vinod Goenka, Unitech Wireless' Sanjay Chandra.
It had also named Reliance Group's Gautam Doshi, Surendra Pipara
and Hari Nayar, besides the three firms. The second set of charges
April 25 included Kanimozhi, Kalaignar TV's Sharad Kumar, Cineyug
Film`s Karim Morani and Kusegaon's Asif Balwa and Rajeev Agarwal.
All the accused are in judicial custody and lodged in Tihar Jail
Subramaniam told the court that while he did not have any occasion
to work with Reliance Group's Doshi, Pipara and Nayar, he was not
aware if Anil Ambani, the chairman of Reliance Group, was also
chairman of Swan Telecom.
Sethuraman, on his part, said he did know the three accused from
the Reliance Group "as they are my colleagues" and also Swan
Telecom. His cross-examination will continue Monday.
The judge also extended the remand of the 14 accused till then.
The prosecution and the defence are also scheduled to examine
Ashish Karyekar of Reliance Infrastructure during the proceedings