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CBI, ED Seeks Early Hearing in 2G Scam Case, Say Substantial Judicial Time Consumed

File photo of Delhi High Court

File photo of Delhi High Court

Justice Brijesh Sethi, who has been hearing the matter and is scheduled to retire on November 30, reserved the order on the plea by CBI and ED seeking early hearing of the agencies leave to appeal' which are listed for October 12.

The CBI and ED Tuesday said substantial judicial time of the Delhi High Court was consumed in hearing arguments in the 2G spectrum allocation case appeals challenging the acquittals of former telecom minister A Raja and others and it should be concluded before retirement of the judge. The agencies told the high court that if genuine efforts are made and assistance is rendered by all the advocates of the parties, it is possible to conclude arguments and decide the leave to appeal' by November end, when the judge is going to retire.

Justice Brijesh Sethi, who has been hearing the matter and is scheduled to retire on November 30, reserved the order on the plea by CBI and ED seeking early hearing of the agencies leave to appeal' which are listed for October 12. Leave to appeal is a formal permission granted by a court to a party to challenge a decision in a higher court.

Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Sanjay Jain, representing the CBI and ED, said judicial time has already been invested in this matter and it should not go as a bad investment. He said if the arguments are not completed in the matter before retirement of the judge, they will have to start afresh. We started something, let us complete it. Substantial time has been consumed in the hearings and it will be wasted. If genuine efforts are made and if assistance is rendered by all the counsel, it is possible to complete and conclude the arguments and dispose it of, he submitted.

They see leave to appeal as if writing the Constitution of a country, he said. The CBI has also sought advancing the hearing of the appeal challenging the acquittal of Essar Group promoters Ravi Kant Ruia and Anshuman Ruia, Loop Telecom promoters I P Khaitan and Kiran Khaitan and four others in a separate case arising out of the 2G scam probe.

Senior advocate Dayan Krishnan and lawyer Arshdeep Singh, appearing for Loop Telecom promoters I P Khaitan and Kiran Khaitan, said there was no charge for offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act in the case against them and no public servant was involved in it and therefore, nothing attached to this case is of great public interest or national importance. They submitted that in view of the current pandemic situation, which is becoming more severe by the day and the physical functioning of the high court is also restricted, it is also not possible for the parties to fully prepare and instruct the counsel and hearing of the instant matter in this restricted environment would cause severe prejudice to them.

Advocate Vijay Aggarwal, appearing for various individuals including Raja's erstwhile private secretary R K Chandolia and Swan Telecom promoter Shahid Balwa, showed data of pending appeals before the high court and argued that more than 10,000 appeals are still pending and there is no reason why preference should be given to the leave petition filed by CBI which is against an acquittal. He said many clients are aged above 65 years and due to COVID-19 restrictions, they cannot travel to assist their lawyers as the matter involves interpretation of government files for which assistance of clients who are ex-secretaries is mandatory and without looking at the physical files it is not possible to argue the matter through video conferencing.

Advocate Tarannum Cheema, representing Unitech Ltd MD Sanjay Chandra, said her client is in jail in another case and the copy of CBI application was served to him today morning and needs time to file a reply. Raja and DMK MP Kanimozhi and others also opposed the agencies' early hearing application.

They said the agencies have not shown the urgency so far and during the COVID-19 pandemic, courts are following a particular sequence in conducting proceedings giving priority to cases where accused/ convicts are in jail and that pattern should not be disturbed. The CBI and the ED sought early virtual hearing of their appeals saying that the country's largest trial, which was conducted at the public exchequer's cost, be brought to its logical conclusion.

A special court had on December 21, 2017 acquitted Raja, DMK MP Kanimozhi and others in CBI and ED cases related to the scam. It had acquitted 17 others, including DMK supremo M Karunanidhi's wife Dayalu Ammal, Vinod Goenka, Asif Balwa, film producer Karim Morani, P Amirtham and Sharad Kumar, Director of Kalaignar TV in the ED case.

On the same day, the trial court had also acquitted former telecom secretary Siddharth Behura, Raja's erstwhile private secretary R K Chandolia, Unitech Ltd MD Sanjay Chandra and three top executives of Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (RADAG) — Gautam Doshi, Surendra Pipara and Hari Nair, in the CBI's 2G case. Swan Telecom promoters Balwa and Vinod Goenka and directors of Kusegaon Fruits and Vegetables Pvt Ltd Asif Balwa and Rajiv Agarwal were also acquitted in the CBI case.

On March 19 2018, the ED had approached the high court challenging the special court's order acquitting all the accused. A day later, the CBI too had challenged in the high court the acquittal of the accused in the case.


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