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
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
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
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