2G case: Week's breather for Sunil Mittal, six others

The Supreme Court Monday offered partial relief to Bharti Airtel chief Sunil Mittal and six others by directing the 2G case trial court not to withhold hearing till April 16 but also said it was free to proceed against any person not named in a charge sheet if there were material evidences against them.

Hearing Mittal's plea, the court said it would examine April 15 whether Mittal could be named by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) as an accused in the case and summoned by the trial court here to appear before it.

The ruling came after the CBI told the apex court that investigation into the case has "found evidence against the CMD". The probe agency was then asked to file a short affidavit along with the police report by Thursday.

Mittal and the other six accused were summoned by the trial court of Special Judge O.P. Saini to appear before it April 11.

The apex court bench of Chief Justice Altamas Kabir and Justice Vikramajit Sen asked the CBI to file an affidavit giving details of the material in its possession pointing to the involvement of Mittal in the case.

The court asked the investigating agency to file its affidavit by Wednesday and gave senior counsel Harish Salve, appearing for Mittal, time till Saturday to file a reply to the CBI's affidavit.

The probe agency told the trial court that additional spectrum was allotted July 17, 2002, to Bharti Cellular (now Bharti Airtel) and Sterling Cellular (now Vodafone Mobile Service) for the Delhi metro area and Hutchison Max for Mumbai metro area.

The trial court March 19 summoned Mittal and six others to appear before it April 11 in connection with alleged excess spectrum allocation to telecom companies in 2002.

Mittal challenged in the apex court the order of the special court summoning him in the 2G case.

As senior counsel K.K. Venugopal, appearing for the CBI, told the apex court that there was evidence with the agency pointing to the involvement of Mittal in the extra spectrum allocation scam, Chief Justice Altamas Kabir asked him why the business tycoon was not named in the charge sheet.

Venugopal said Mittal was not named in the charge sheet as there were differences between then CBI chief and prosecution director.

He told the court that the matter was referred to the attorney general for opinion, who did not reply to it.

Venugopal told the court that even if a person was not named as an accused in the charge sheet, the trial court could summon him under Section 319 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

The apex court told him that under Section 319 a person, not named in the charge sheet, could be summoned as an accused after the recording of evidence and not prior to it.

Along with Mittal and Essar Group's Ruia, those summoned April 11 by the special court included former telecom secretary Shyamal Ghosh and Asim Ghose, formerly with Hutchison Max Telecom now known as Vodafone India.

The trial court issued summons after taking cognizance of the charge sheet filed against Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Sterling Cellular for the alleged irregularities.

On Dec 21 last year, the CBI named Ghosh and the three telecom firms as accused in the 57-page charge sheet for criminal conspiracy as also under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act for causing a loss of about Rs.846 crore to the exchequer.