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Judicial custody for 5 co-accused in 2G case

By The Assam Tribune

NEW DELHI, April 20 (IANS) - Five senior corporate executives named as co-accused in the second generation (2G) telecom spectrum case were sent to 14 days of judicial custody Wednesday after a city court denied them bail and then interim relief.

Those whose pleas for bail and interim relief were dismissed by Special Judge O.P Saini are: Vinod Goenka of Swan Telecom, Sanjay Chandra of Unitech and three officials of Reliance Anil Dhirubhani Ambani Group - Gautam Doshi, Hari Nair and Surendra Pipara.

Immediately after, senior counsel K.T.S Tulsi moved the Delhi High Court on behalf of all the five accused and sought a hearing of their appeals, challenging the lower court order. Justice Vikramjit Sen said an appropriate bench will hear the matter Thursday.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had named them co-accused, along with former telecom minister A. Raja, his personal aide R.K. Chandolia, former telecom secretary Siddhartha Behura and Swan Telecom promoter Shahid Balwa.

These four are already in judicial custody.

"There are serious allegation against the applicants. There is incriminating evidence on record. The CBI has expressed apprehension that the accused may tamper with evidence by trying to win over witnesses and they may flee from justice," the judge said.

"These apprehension cannot be dismissed as too farfetched at this stage, in the light of serious nature of the case," he said in the 42-page order delivered Wednesday on the bail pleas of the five accused.

As soon as bail was declined, all the five moved pleas for some interim relief before the court, saying 7-15 days may be given to them so that they can approach a higher court, as they were not arrested during investigations.

"I am not inclined to pass any order regarding status quo or grant of interim bail at this stage as prayed," the judge said. "All the five should be taken into custody and sent to Tihar Jail. They need to appear before the court throughout the trial."

The verdict came after Judge Saini had reserved his order last Friday after hearing the arguments of all sides, including that of Supreme Court appointed prosecutor U.U. Lalit who appeared for the premier investigative agency and opposed the bail pleas.

While Lalit appeared for the CBI, former additional solicitor general Mukul Rohatgi appeared for Goenka, Tulsi for Chandra, Seema Gulati for Nair, Ranjit Kumar for Doshi, and Hariharan for Pipara.

In the formal charges running into some 80,000 pages including annexures filed with the special CBI court, also named as co-accused were three firms - Unitech, Swan Telecom and Reliance Telecom.

Among these corporates, Unitech was represented by S.S. Gandhi, Swan by Amit Desai and Sidharth Patnaik, and Reliance Telecom by Manali Singh with authorised representative Nitin Aggarwal.

All the counsel for the accused argued that since their clients were not arrested for past two years, charges had already been officially filed and they had also cooperated with the CBI, they were entitled to bail. This was challenged by the probe agency.

The case took a a serious turn after Raja, a leader of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, resigned Nov 14 as telecom minister after the official auditor held that his policy on spectrum allocation had led to a loss of several billion dollars to the exchequer.

While the former minister was subsequently arrested by the probe agency in the national capital Feb 2, along with Behura and Chandolia, Swan Telecom promoter Balwa was arrested from Pune on Feb 8.

Raja, his aide and officials from the Department of Telecom (DoT) face charges for their roles in the award of scarce radio frequency. The former minister also faces charges of forgery, while Chandolia and Behura have been accused of misusing official position.

"It is unfortunate the bail plea of Vinod Goenka has been rejected by the lower court. We have immense faith in our judicial system and confident that justice will prevail," said N. Shridhar, group director for DB Realty, reacting to Wednesday's verdict.

"We would like to state these developments will not affect the operations of DB Realty in any manner whatsoever. There is no direct or indirect shareholding of DB Realty in the telecom business and the company will continue its business in the normal course."

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