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Set Up Spl Court, Go After Corporates In 2G Scam: SC To CBI

New Delhi, Feb 10: The Supreme Court today directed the government to set up a special court exclusively to try the 2G spectrum case and asked the CBI to go after corporate beneficiaries without being
PTI February 10, 2011 21:01 IST
PTI
New Delhi, Feb 10: The Supreme Court today directed the government to set up a special court exclusively to try the 2G spectrum case and asked the CBI to go after corporate beneficiaries without being influenced by their status-- be it millionaires or whether they are on the Forbes list.

Giving a free hand to the investigating agency and setting contours of the probe, the Court asked the government to constitute a special court exclusively for this case so that the result of the trial will come out in a time-frame.

"Government must come out with an assurance that it will set up an exclusive court for this case," a bench of the court said after perusing the status report filed by CBI and ED in the case.

"There is no parallel to this case and we want authorities concerned to give it a top priority," the bench comprising G S Singhvi and A K Ganguly observed.

Attorney General G E Vahanvati assured the court that within two weeks he will inform the outcome after consulting the authority  concerned.

The bench asked the agency to lay its hands on the big corporate houses and the government officials who may have a role in the scam "as mere summoning them for examining them may not be sufficient".

"We have a large number of persons who think themselves to be law. Law must catch them. It should be done with greater expedition. Merely they are in the list of Forbes or they are millionaires does not make any difference," the Bench said after perusing the status reports filed by the probe agencies in which names of big corporates houses and their officers were mentioned.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for an NGO, Centre for Public Interest Litigation, pointed out that the agencies have not questioned the heads of several companies including Swan technology, which was controlled by Anil Ambani's Reliance Group, when the spectrum was allocated.

At this, the Bench said "top authorities of the companies were not questioned. It is surprising that the Managing Directors were not summoned".

"Why CBI has not taken any action in this regard," the court asked.

The apex court said  freedom of probe agencies should not be curtailed and they should go beyond the role of the four persons already arrested including the former telecom minister A Raja and tell the names of conspirators.

"This investigation has led to prima-facie conclusion about the culpability of four persons. What about the beneficiaries.

"They are part of a larger conspiracy. We want to know about them. You (CBI) take instructions and tell us what action you are planning to take," the bench said.

The bench questioned CBI's strategy of seeking short custodial remands of the accused and said it must have free hand to question anyone.

"There is something which is surprising. CBI must have a free hand to question anyone. Whether it's freedom is curtailed by seeking short remand....complexity is involved.

"It is a very complicated matter. We feel that investigating agency must be given free hand to seek longer remand. Otherwise the whole purpose of investigation is frustrated," the Bench said.

The bench also barred any other courts from passing any order in the 2G spectrum case which could impede investigations.

Senior advocate K K Venugopal, appearing for the CBI, responded to the court's queries and said "we need sometime to come to the conclusion on what action is to be taken against the beneficiaries.

"We have enlarged the scope of investigation. Give us month's time to report on how much we information we have unearthed about the beneficiaries".

However, he assured the Bench that the CBI will file the first chargesheet about its investigation into the scam that took place during the regime of A Raja by March 31, 2011.

The Bench asked the agency to get the chargesheet vetted by it before filing it in the designated court.

"We will scrutinise the draft chargesheet before it is filed in the special court," the Bench said.

The bench directed that during the pendency of the case before it "no other courts shall pass any order which in any way impede the investigation".

"We must ensure that the case must lead to its logical conclusion. CBI is right now answerable to this court and there is no question of anybody interfering with the investigation," it said.

The Bench was critical of the role played by the banks in giving loans to the prospective licensees and the TRAI's action of 2003 which triggered the scam.

"What action you have taken against TRAI officials. Why it has not been done so far when you have mentioned in the status report that it was the TRAI decision of 2003 which triggered the scam," the Bench asked the agencies.

When Venugopal read out the manner in which loans were given to various corporate houses before the allocation of licences, the Bench wondered how it was done without exactly scrutinising the applications.

"What is intriguing is about the banks which were giving financial assistance did not find out about the type of transaction they are doing. One particular company which has nothing to do with this field (telecom) also got loan," the Bench said.

"Surprisingly banks are rolling loans whatever be their waiver according to their internal guidelines. It looks quite intriguing", the court said.. PTI