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Spectrum of charges against Raja, 13 accused in 2G case

Saturday October 22, 2011 08:11:45 PM, IANS

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New Delhi: Ten months after his arrest, former telecom minister A. Raja was Saturday charged for criminal breach of trust, bribery, forgery and cheating in the controversial allocation of phone spectrum, a case that rocked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government and became the talk of the nation.

Along with him, DMK leader and MP Kanimozhi Karunanidhi was also charged with criminal conspiracy and criminal breach of trust. If convicted, while Raja could face a maximum sentence of life in prison, Kanimozhi could also face prison term.

Identical charges were also framed by the Special Trial Court of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) against his former aide R.K. Chandolia and former telecom secretary Siddharth Behura. The formal charges may pave the way for some of the accused to get bail, as per legal opinion.

The case, entrusted to the premier probe agency and involving award of scarce airwaves to new telecom players in a booming industry in 2007-08, went on to be known commonly as the 2G (second-generation spectrum allocation) case.

"Section 409 is imposed on Raja and two of his secretaries," Judge O.P. Saini told the packed courtroom here in the presence of all the 14 arrested individuals, who included top politicians, bureaucrats and corporate honchos.

Those guilty under Section 409 of Indian Penal Code, which related to breach of trust by a public servant, is liable to punishment that can stretch to life imprisonment or 10-year imprisonment with fine. It is a cognizable, non-bailable offence.

"You accused, A. Raja and Siddarth Behura, dishonestly in pursuance of the conspiracy disposed of/allocated valuable spectrum, over which you were having dominion," said the judge adding: "Thereby, you committed an offence punishable under Section 409 read with 120-B and within my cognisance."

Another high-profile accused, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam's Rajya Sabha member Kanimozhi, who is a daughter of former Tamil Nadu chief minister M. Karunanidhi, has invited charges of abetment of criminal conspiracy and criminal breach of trust under the Indian Penal Code.

The probe agency had filed the first set of charges April 2 in which it had named as co-accused Raja, Chandolia, Behura, Swan Telecom's Shahid Usman Balwa and Vinod Goenka and Unitech Wireless' Sanjay Chandra.

It had also named as co-accused Reliance Group's Gautam Doshi, Surendra Pipara and Hari Nayar, besides three companies - Unitech Wireless, Swan Telecom and Reliance Telecom.

After that the supplementary charges April 25 included Kanimozhi, Kalaignar TV's chief Sharad Kumar, Cineyug Film`s Karim Morani and the directors of Kusegaon, Asif Balwa and Rajeev B. Agarwal.

All the 14 individuals accused in the case were taken into judicial custody and lodged in Tihar Jail.

As proceedings began Saturday, and after the charges were read and explained, each of the accused was asked if he/she had understood the content, wanted to plead guilty or seek a trial.

After none of them pleaded guilty, Judge Saini said: "I, hereby, direct that you all be tried by this court for the aforesaid charges."

Raja had resigned Nov 14 as the communications minister after the official auditor revealed that his policy and action on the award of scarce airwaves, a national resource, had resulted in presumptive losses worth billions of rupees to the exchequer.

Raja was arrested by the probe agency in the national capital Feb 2, along with Behura and Chandolia, while Shahid Balwa was arrested from Pune Feb 8. Then came the custodies of Asif Balwa and Agarwal.

Among others, the court had April 20 rejected the bail pleas of Goenka, Chandra, Doshi, Nair and Pipara and ordered judicial custody. Then May 20, Kanimozhi and Sharad Kumar, were also named accused and sent to jail, and 10 days later, Morani also joined them.








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