New Delhi: The Supreme Court will hear on Wednesday plea by former telecom minister and DMK leader Dayanidhi Maran seeking stay of the cancellation of his anticipatory bail in telephone exchange case by the Madras High Court.
The apex court bench headed by Justice T.S. Thakur directed the hearing of matter on Wednesday after senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi told the court that Maran has been investigated in the matter twice in 2014 and twice in 2015.
The Madras High Court by an order on Monday cancelled the anticipatory bail that it had granted to Maran in June, saying that he should face interrogation by the CBI.
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday directed former Telecom Minister Dayanidhi Maran to appear before the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for six days, accusing him of misleading the investigation in the telephone exchange case.
The CBI alleged Maran of giving ambiguous and inconsistent answers, as well as retractions to them continually from July 1 to 3, 2015, “deliberately hiding facts in his exclusive knowledge” told the CBI to the court.
The case bench was headed by Justice T S Thakur, who told the former minister to cooperate and respond to the queries posed by the CBI. Maran has to be present in the CBI premises from November 30 to December 5 between 11 AM to 5 PM.
The court also instructed CBI to report again if the Maran avoids the questions and doesn’t assist with the probe.
“However, we will not grant you custodial interrogation at the moment,” the court clarified to CBI.
The apex court also said that his custodial cross-examination is obligatory to uncover essential parts of the case as it suspects larger conspiracy around the actual use of networks for the benefit of Sun TV. These rights were exclusive in the knowledge of the minister and it counts for the real loss caused by the illicit practice of high-end telecom services.
The DMK leader Maran had applied to the Supreme Court once the Madras High Court annulled his interim pre-emptive bail and asked him to surrender before CBI.
CBI had registered a First Investigation Report against Maran as well as others asserting that over 300 high-speed telephone lines were connected to his residence in Chennai. Allegedly the lines were further extended to Kalanithi Maran, his brother and owner of SUN TV channel.
The court has also mentioned the pattern of questions to be asked by the CBI, that gave the order for the installation of the high-speed lines, why such an order was given, if at all, etc.
Former communications minister Dayanidhi Maran has been given a week’s time by the Supreme Court – two member bench of Justice T.S. Thakur and Justice V. Gopala Gowda – to respond to the CBI’s plea for his custodial interrogation. The investigation holds Maran responsible for using the telephone exchange installed at his Chennai residence for the family-owned Sun TV’s benefit.
The court directed the listing of the matter on October 1 as Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta sought the date telling the court that Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi was leading the investigating agency’s case before the bench and requested for next hearing on that date.
On the last date of the hearing of the matter on August 12, the apex court, while staying the Madras High Court order cancelling Maran’s anticipatory bail, asked if any political vendetta was in play for the CBI seeking his custody for interrogation.
The court, which had then chided the CBI for doing nothing for over two years since 2013 when the case was registered, is now pressing for Maran’s custody.
Maran’s custody is indispensable to digging up the conspiracy between Sun TV, BSNL officials and the former communications minister, says the CBI and further states it to be a case under the Prevention of Corruption Act.
New Delhi: The CBI on Wednesday grilled former communications minister Dayanidhi Maran for over seven hours in a case against him for installing over 700 phone lines, including 300 high data capacity BSNL lines, at his Chennai residence, asking him more than 200 questions, agency officials said. He will be questioned again on Thursday.
Maran, who was communications minister in the first UPA government (2004-07), reached the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) headquarters at about 10 a.m. and was questioned by the Special Task Force (STF) between 11 a.m. and 6.30 p.m., an official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told IANS.
However, an official privy to the investigation, when asked how much money from the state exchequer was lost because of the scam, pegged the figure at Rs.1.80 crore – much lower than the earlier Rs.440 crore.
Another CBI official told IANS that the total number of phones at his Boat Club residence in Chennai were actually 770, including of private operators, not over 300 as mentioned in the FIR.
The CBI had registered an FIR in the case on July 23, 2013. Till date, however, only three people have been arrested in the matter, while the DMK leader’s name is not mentioned in the FIR as an accused.
The STF team in its seven-and-a-half-hour interrogation of Maran asked him if the high data capacity BSNL telecom lines were used to benefit the Sun TV group, owned by his elder brother, Kalanithi Maran.
“We have asked Maran to explain the misuse of 770 lines, including the 323 high-data capacity BSNL telecom lines being used at his Boat House residence in Chennai, and the mobile phone lines being used by him in Chennai and Delhi,” said a CBI official, who did not want to be named.
The former minister had been called for questioning on Monday, but but did not turn up. On Tuesday, he approached the Madras High Court for anticipatory bail which was granted.
Maran was also asked whether these high capacity lines, in which a stealth cable was used, were used illicitly by Sun TV channel to transfer huge amounts of data without paying for the service.
The agency’s investigation also centres on the fact that the system was devised in such a way that except for the “authorised BSNL staff”, no one in the state-owned telecom company was aware of it.
The interrogators also asked Maran if he had used his network when he was a minister to install the high-speed ISDN phone lines, and why he facilitated these illegal lines despite knowing that it would cause a huge loss to the BSNL.
Maran, who faced several rounds of questioning, was was also asked to explain the answers given by his aides – former additional private secretary V. Gowthaman, Sun TV’s chief technical officer S. Kannan and electrician L.S. Ravi who were earlier arrested by the agency in the case. The Madras High Court has granted bail to them.
CBI officials, part of the STF, also said Maran was asked if he had pressured BSNL officials to install these lines.
An STF member told IANS that Maran will be questioned again on Thursday, and has to reach the CBI office at 10.30 a.m.
Maran was questioned in January this year and October 2014, while Kalanithi was also questioned by the STF in September 2014.
The CBI had started its investigation in 2011 – nearly four years after the matter surfaced. In 2007, the agency had recommended action to the then telecom secretary but nothing happened.